Coronavirus: HSE calls for hospitals to suspend parking charges for staff

Euro Car Parks says clamping ‘last thing we need’ during outbreak but other firms still operating

A file image of clamping under way in Dublin.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A file image of clamping under way in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The HSE has called on all hospitals and healthcare facilities to immediately suspend parking charges for staff for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said he had directed that parking charges in all hospitals and healthcare facilities be suspended “as a small mark of our gratitude” for the efforts of health workers.

“I have been overwhelmed by the dedication, support and professionalism of all our staff in helping to contain the Covid-19 outbreak to date,” he said.

“As we face in to a very difficult period it is only right that we make every effort to ensure that staff are supported in their work.”

The decision to suspend the charges for staff followed criticism of clamping operators who appeared to continue to clamp health professionals’ vehicles while they worked to support patients affected by the pandemic.

A number of social media posts claimed that nurses’ cars had been clamped and called on operators to cease their activities near medical centres.

One of the State’s main parking management operators had announced that it would suspend all clamping until further notice.

Dave Cullen, managing director of Euro Car Parks, said he had decided to redeploy his staff “to do something useful and make a difference” rather than focusing on parking fines.

Parking management staff are now delivering prescriptions from pharmacies to elderly customers who are unable to leave their homes due to self-isolation or fears of contracting the virus. Five staff members also began delivering groceries to elderly customers on Wednesday, said Mr Cullen.

‘Last thing we need’

“We all know the impact this virus is having on people, the last thing we need is clamping,” Mr Cullen said. “We had a senior management meeting on Monday for planning ahead and decided that morally we don’t need to be clamping right now. I didn’t want to put my staff on temporary layoff so we figured out how to do something community-orientated.”

Mr Cullen credited his friend, a GP, for coming up with the idea of delivering prescriptions.

“He pointed out that pharmacies would be in difficulty.”

The Euro Car Parks company usually works at 200 sites around Dublin, operating car parks for local and public authorities and at shopping centres, hospitals, airports, railway stations, supermarkets and retail and leisure parks.

Asked whether it would consider suspending clamping on vehicles, the Apcoa Connect company, which operates parking facilities at dozens of locations around the country, said it would “continue to manage all of our car parks as per our client’s instructions”.

“We suggest that all motorists should observe the rules of parking in whatever car park they are using,” said a statement from the company.

In a statement, Dublin City Council (DCC) said: “At present DCC are continuing to operate our parking enforcement as normal to ensure that motorists continue to obey traffic regulations.”