EARTHWORKS at the Mount Gambier Hospital are under way to expand the number of car park spaces at the regional health facility.
The $250,000 car park extension follows community outcry and political pressure over the lack of spaces at the state’s largest regional hospital.
The works will include a 42-space extension of the secure staff car park at the rear of the hospital as well as an overflow car park area for both staff and the community.
The project is foreshadowed to be completed in seven weeks and will free up 68 spaces in the public car park for the community.
It is understood the shortfall has been heightened by staff taking up spaces in the hospital’s front public car park.
Hospital staff who continue to park at the front car park will also face possible fines.
The project’s start follows community frustration boiling over last year and Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell claiming cars were being “stacked up like sardines” at the site.
A number of timber bollards – preventing cars parking on grass areas – were ripped from the ground by fed up motorists in several sections of the car park.
Executive director of nursing and midwifery Paul Bullen yesterday welcomed news the extension works were now under way.
“Forty-two new staff car parks will be created in the secured car park and 26-designated ‘community health’ car parks will be freed up to the public to create 68 additional spaces in the public car park,” Mr Bullen told The Border Watch yesterday.
“We think this will solve the issue for the community.”
Mr Bullen said the spaces at the front of the hospital should be left for people accessing health services and community members who had mobility and other health issues.
“We do have the power to fine staff that park at the front and we have done that. But we really do not want to go down that road,” he said.
Mr Bullen said a parcel of land – adjacent the secure staff car park – was also being constructed as an overflow parking area for both staff and the public.
While the overflow car park area would not be disability friendly, he said it would an option for motorists who could not find a parking space.
This area will be compacted to allow for car parking.
“The majority of cars parking at the front are staff. It is not that we do not have enough car parks for the public, it is the fact staff are parking there,” Mr Bullen said.
Understanding the frustration flowing from the community, he was “hopeful” these works would resolve the issue and would accommodate future demand.
“The cost of the project is coming out of the Mount Gambier Hospital budget, it is about $250,000,” Mr Bullen explained.
Meanwhile, Mr Bell yesterday welcomed news the car park extension project was under way.
“This is a fantastic outcome. It is great to see the regional health board listen to the concerns of the community and proactively work to address issues,” the politician said.
He said praised Limestone Coast Local Health Network board chair Grant King and chief executive officer Ngaire Buchanan and other health staff for making this a reality.
Mr Bell – who campaigned heavily for the car park extension – said the issue was thrown into the spotlight after a number of constituents came into his office raising concerns they could not find a car park at the hospital.
These people also raised the issue that cars were also being damaged given the narrow car park spaces.
In particular, Mr Bell said the car park extension was needed to free up spaces for people who had mobility issues and needed close and safe access to the health facility.
It is nearly 10 years since the car park was significantly expanded following a decade-long campaign by the community.