Nurses at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) are being told that they might have to wait for a parking spot for nine years, according to their union.
“And what I recently heard is that they’re only now working on applications for people from January 2015,” BC Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen said.
However, Interior Health said the wait for parking is up to four or five years, depending on circumstances.
The health authority said it has 700 parking stalls for KGH staff, and 800 people on the waitlist.
That means many nurses have to park blocks away, Sorensen said.
“(They) often trudge through the dark or inclement weather, to and from work at odd hours of the day and night to get to their 12-hour or sometimes longer shift,” she added.
Interior Health said it does have secure bicycle storage and a safe walk program, but security will only accompany employees to areas within hospital grounds.
“The problem really is walking off the property, the two, three, four, six blocks that nurses may have to walk to find parking in and around the hospital,” Sorensen said.
She added that’s when nurses are often harassed and sometimes verbally or physically assaulted.
“Really this is a totally unacceptable situation. It speaks to how the employer values the nurse, which obviously, they don’t,” Sorensen said.
The union is calling on Interior Health to look for other solutions, like purchasing land that could be turned into a lot and running a shuttle back and forth to the hospital.
“I can’t understand how that would be that much more costly than the impact to somebody’s life or health and well being if they’re injured or assaulted walking to or from the facility,” Sorensen said.
Interior Health said that earlier this month, it added another 63 staff parking spots in a new lot on Speer Street.
“Given the costs of land and parking development as well as the limited land available for parking near the hospital, there is no simple solution,” the health authority said in a statement.
“Impacts from COVID-19 — concerns about carpooling and public transit — may also be contributing to additional challenges right now.”
The health region said it continues to explore future options.