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Strong support for nurses, midwives over paid parking dispute

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The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) believes the NSW Government is out of touch.

Frustration arose on Friday 9 February after the union’s local members rallied outside the John Hunter Hospital campus, calling on state politicians to revoke their decision to charge healthcare employees for the privilege of parking at work.

The government reintroduced the fees from the start of the month at John Hunter, Calvary Mater and James Fletcher medical centres.

The cost was originally waived during the COVID pandemic.

But, because Newcastle facilities are deemed “metro”, the meters have been turned back on, angering the deflated staff throughout the region.

Nurses, midwives and even doctors began paying $20.90 a week for access to the hospital car park.

As a result, essential healthcare workers will fork out more than $1,700 annually.

Given the cost-of-living crisis, lack of affordable housing and a surge in COVID-19 presentations, the decision to slap workers with parking fees has been considered a major blow.

NSWNMA John Hunter and John Hunter Children’s Hospital branch secretary Matthew Rispen said the government was wrong to declare Newcastle as “metropolitan”.

“Efficient public transport options around Newcastle and the Lower Hunter are extremely limited, especially outside traditional business hours,” he explained.

“Many of our nurses and midwives work unsociable hours, including at night and on weekends, when public transport options are not available.

“John Hunter is also experiencing a significant upgrade, which has further increased traffic around the hospital and significantly affects parking availability, with about 150 staff parking spaces currently closed for construction.

“These works are expected to continue for at least another 18 months.

“For day and afternoon shifts, nurses and midwives are arriving at least an hour prior to their shift… in an attempt to secure a staff parking space or risk being late for their shift.

“Meanwhile, on night shift, staff are still required to pay for parking in an almost empty car park.”

John Hunter Hospital has also been dealing with an influx of COVID-19 cases over recent months.

“We have seen an uptick in positive cases, resulting in a reintroduction of masks and an increase in staff on sick leave with COVID-19, meaning nurses and midwives are working short staffed or being asked to pick up overtime shifts,” Mr Rispen said.

“They are being expected to return to pre-pandemic times, financially, while still having to work with COVID-19, professionally.”

NSWNMA assistant general secretary Michael Whaites admitted the government’s decision to reintroduce paid parking for healthcare workers showed a lack of regard and appreciation for the workforce.

“The below inflation 4% pay increase that public sector nurses and midwives received in 2023 is being clawed back by their resolution to rescind free parking,” he said.

“It isn’t right that our hardworking healthcare staff should be slugged these fees while trying to care for our community.

“These car parking changes have the potential to further hinder recruitment and retention of health staff.

“So, we’re asking the NSW government to urgently reconsider this decision.”

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