24 APRIL 2002
Unions are still raising red flags over an issue which may soon turn into a national farce. The MUMN the union representing nurses are up in arms over the request that their members will have to pay a parking fee in a car park.
Since it was announced that the car park next to St Lukes Hospital was being taken over by the Pieta Local Council and that such a move would entail an increase in parking fees, the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses have been campaigning for the Health Division to subsidise the cost of parking at the multi-storey car park.
The request has the backing of the UHM and the GWU, who are also expecting the government department to pay money to provide parking for its employees.
"We do not accept the arrogance of Minister Deguara and the Health Division who do not want to discuss this problem at all," confirmed Colin Galea, General Secretary of MUMN yesterday.
"The case does not simply involve the matter of the increased costs having to be incurred by nurses and midwives. These have calculated that if working a six-day shift, they would have the added costs of Lm108 a year to cover their parking fees."
Mr Galea quoted an agreement of the 8 June 2001 between the MUMN president, Rudolph Cini and the General Director of the Health Division, Dr Ray Busuttil. In terms of the agreement, the Health Division had agreed to see that surveillance officers would be increased to safeguard security within the hospital and also within the car park. Electronic monitoring surveillance was also to be installed in a bid to increase security.
"So far we have seen nothing of the sort and if the Health Division claims that the car park is not its responsibility, then why would it mention it in this agreement?" queried Colin Galea.
Nurses and midwives are also faced with a situation in which the uppermost floor of the car park is being reserved solely for doctors, a scenario that has led to security personnel refusing to allow midwives parking therein as of Monday 15 April. This has caused echoes of discrimination and laments that car park space should be available to one and all.
"When one considers that the car park is usually practically full by 7.00am on any working day, one can understand how frustrating it can be for staff to have to worry about this additional problem." Mr Galea referred to the fact that other employees working in other large establishments were provided with parking space free of charge. He cited the case of the Malta International Airport as an example.
Unfortunately, the Health Division was unavailable for comment yesterday, although its position was made clear when the Ministry declared that the Health Division was under no obligation to provide parking facilities for its employees. "The decision whether employees use private transport or whether they park their cars at a pay parking lot was absolutely at their discretion."
However, in this story of hurt egos and punctured purses, nobody seems to be paying an iota of attention to the patients themselves who have to suffer the added stress of hearing about the malaise amongst St Lukes staff. Malaise that appears to be spreading through various sectors, from the doctors earlier this year to the present case involving nurses and midwives. Moreover nobody seems to be voicing the burden being imposed on the general public who will have to pay the quoted cost of 50c per car. These are generally the people who need to make use of the car park simply because there is no other space in which to park a car when one visits patients, or worse still, when one has to visit the hospital for regular out patient visits.