McGrath challenges Minister to commit to free parking for hospital staff

health Colin McGrath

SDLP Opposition Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has challenged Minister Robin Swann to commit to a firm date for free parking for hospital staff.

He was speaking after second stage of the Hospital Parking Charges Bill in the Assembly on Tuesday.

South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:

“There is a sense of real disappointment among health staff who had been assured that they would soon no longer have to pay for parking simply to attend their place of work, only to learn that after two years they face another delay. These are staff who in many cases have been forced to take to picket lines to secure fair pay and have also suffered due to the cost of living crisis and having to pay parking charges at work adds insult to injury.

“In 2022, just weeks away from an election, every party supported this Sinn Féin legislation providing free car parking at our hospitals. Now, many of these same Executive parties seem set to support this delay. While I understand there have been challenges in putting the necessary infrastructure in place to implement the changes for free car parking, I believe the Minister has a duty to make an exemption for staff and find a workaround in the interim. He needs to provide guarantees and a timescale to staff and that’s what I asked him for today.

“Health staff have already waited long enough to be provided with free car parking, these are the people we rely on to keep our health service running and they should not be incurring additional charges to go to work. Pushing this delay through via accelerated passage makes it look like the Executive are afraid of scrutiny on this matter. Parties were quick to vote for this legislation and raise the hopes of staff and patients, they should do everything to deliver on their promise as quickly as possible.”

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