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COVID-19: Some front-line hospital workers say parking remains an issue in Kingston

The frustration around parking continues for some front-line workers at Kingston hospitals as the solutions that were offered last week were not beneficial to all staff.

Although the city and Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) teamed up to give hospital workers a break as they deal with COVID-19 patients transferred from other regions, Global News spoke to several front-line workers who say free parking passes were snatched up while they were working in the hospital.

Read more:
Kingston health-care workers lobby for help with parking during height of COVID-19 pandemic

Tracy McNaught-Fern, a nurse who has come out of retirement to help deal with the third wave of the pandemic, says she was one of the front-line workers who missed out.

“They were gone pretty quick and a lot of the staff didn’t get them that are in areas that are working 12-hour shifts. They don’t have the ability to get out,” McNaught-Fern says.

In fact, McNaught-Fern received a parking ticket Monday morning five minutes after the meter expired. She couldn’t get to the meter on time was because she was unable to leave her patient.

This was one of the many issues that several hospital workers brought to light last week when they were lobbying for a break in parking during the third wave of the pandemic.

Following these calls, Mayor Bryan Paterson put forward a motion at city council to offer free on-street parking for hospital workers around KHSC institutions.

KHSC then teamed up with the city to offer more than 700 parking passes to staff that allowed for parking on some city streets. These were to be obtained on a first-come, first-served basis.

Click to play video: The delicate task of transferring ICU patients to other hospitals

“KHSC is truly grateful for our dedicated employees who have been working hard to address the increasing health care needs of our community and communities across Ontario, and to the city of Kingston for its support,” said Elizabeth Bardon, VP of mission and strategy integration and support services.

Bardon says priority for the passes was given to front-line workers caring for patients.

“Unfortunately, KHSC’s security team has no further permits to distribute at this time,” Bardon said.

Shannon Cooper, a personal care assistant at Kingston General Hospital, says she also missed out on the free parking passes. Cooper says she received over $130 in parking fines last week alone, and on the day she cleared them, she finished her shift to see another ticket on her dash.

After returning from maternity leave in November, she noticed a significant difference in parking access for health-care workers at the hospital. Cooper says she and some co-workers have a Facebook group where they share ideas about how local institutions might be able to solve the parking issues that have long plagued hospital workers in Kingston.

“Even just to give out passes just for every hospital worker, you know, you put the pass on your windshield, they come around and they see a hospital tag in your windshield so they don’t ticket you,” Cooper suggested.

Click to play video: ICU transfers to Kingston from the GTA increase as COVID-19 cases surge in Ontario

A major player in the discussion around parking near the hospitals is Queen’s University, which owns several parking lots near the hospital, some of which are not being used due to online learning. Last week, Queen’s told Global News there is a temporary allowance for health-care workers to be able to use its surface lots for just over $100 a month, which is the same rate the offered to Queen’s staff.

When asked Monday if there were any plans to give hospital workers a break on parking during the third wave, the school offered the following statement: “Kingston Health Sciences Centre is monitoring the demand for spaces in addition to those provided by the city, and Queen’s will work with the hospital to provide additional parking to our hospital and front line workers.”

As of Tuesday, there are 45 patients in KHSC hospitals with COVID-19, 38 of whom are from out-of-region. KHSC says it is caring for 26 people in its intensive care unit and 19 in acute care.

— With files from Global News’ Alexandra Mazur

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