Crunch talks over Medway Maritime disabled parking row
08:37 29 June 2012
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Pressure grows over stopping free parking for blue badge holders
Fuming councillors held talks with bosses at Medway Maritime this week following the hospital’s controversial decision to charge the disabled to use its car park.
The hospital sparked fury when it announced it would be scrapping free parking for those motorists with blue badge permits in a bid to make more money.
The Medway NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said the decision, which comes into force on July 2, was to “create fairness around concessions and to generate income for the trust as pressure on budgets continues”.
However, it illicited an angry response, prompting Conservative councillors David Brake and Mike O’Brien to hold a meeting on Wednesday with the hospital’s operations director Patrick Johnson.
They say the charges will generate just £180,000 – less than 0.1 per cent of the hospital’s annual budget of £200m.
Cllr Brake, portfolio holder for adult services at Medway Council said: “This is a very poor and disappointing decision for Medway Maritime to make and something that myself and Cllr O’Brien made clear to Patrick Johnson. The lack of consultation with hospital users, Medway Council and various partners demonstrates to us that hospital chiefs have tried to sneak this decision in through the back door.”
Cllr O’Brien, who has responsibility for blue badges as portfolio holder for community safety and customer first, added: “To target disabled hospital users in this manner for a comparatively small financial gain is not something we can support. The NHS is a great organisation and I feel the people of Medway have been severely let down by hospital chiefs. We vehemently oppose and intend to fight it.”
John Avey, who chairs the health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee, is writing to the hospital’s chief executive calling for the charges to be suspended.
The Medway NHS Foundation Trust said: “We offer a range of other concessions to make car parking accessible for all our patients and visitors and these will remain unaffected. This includes parking for parents or guardians of children on paediatric wards and for the next of kin of patients on critical, intensive or high dependency units.
“Surplus income, after running costs of the car park have been met, is put directly back into patient care to improve services.”