Nfld. & Labrador

Health Sciences Centre takes your car keys to add parking spots

A new valet-like service has freed up some spaces, but one man who circled the lot long enough that he missed his appointment says parking is still a big problem at the hospital.

Overflow lot adds 45 visitor spaces during peak parking times

The Health Sciences Centre has about 565 visitor parking spaces, and the new overflow lot adds another 45. (CBC)

A new overflow parking system is now up and running at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, offering a valet-like service the hospital hopes helps address its parking space crunch.

The new system deliberately packs cars into a lot so that they block other cars from leaving, and by doing so frees up 45 additional spaces for visitors and 96 spaces for staff, said Daniel Parsons, Eastern Health's director of planning and engineering support.

"Generally, what happens is if you do park in that location, you're going to be blocked in," he said.

That blocking is restricted to one parking lot designated as an overflow lot, that operates during peak times from Monday to Friday and is staffed with special attendants.

Those attendants then have the authority to move cars around while their owners are inside the hospital.

"Anyone that avails of this service and actually blocks in a vehicle, they are required to give us their keys, so we can make sure we can get the vehicles out of the way," he said.

In the new system, cars deliberately block other cars in. Attendants can then move cars around to let drivers leave. (CBC)

No spots, missed appointments

The service is voluntary, and cars will only be blocked if parking at the hospital is at capacity.

"We really are trying to ensure there's additional capacity so that clients and visitors can make it to see their loved ones, or get to their appointments on time," he said.

But one man told CBC he circled the hospital parking lots so long he missed a recent appointment, despite having arrived 40 minutes ahead of time.

"I thought that was early enough. The parking was horrible. I got there and the parking was packed," said George Miminis, 

Miminis, who works nearby but has mobility issues that prevent him from walking to the hospital, said he has in the past taken taxis rather than try to find a spot for appointments.

George Miminis missed a physiotherapy appointment last week as he circled the Health Sciences Centre parking lot, looking for a space. (CBC)

While Miminis, who is married to CBC N.L. host Ramona Dearing, said hospital staff were polite when he called to cancel his appointment because of a lack of parking, he still sees the parking as a big issue.

"To their defence, the place is very, very busy. The busiest place in town, I'd say," he said.

"They've extended the parking, but it's not enough, and I really don't know what the solution would be."

More spots years away

The new overflow system, which has been in place for about three weeks, has so far parked an additional 400 visitor cars, said Parsons.

While Parsons said it's unfortunate Miminis couldn't find a spot, he did ask future drivers to keep an eye out for the overflow lot attendants, and staff will continue to tweak its operations.

"We're always looking for ways to improve services," he said.

Eastern Health's Daniel Parsons says people can call or text the overflow parking system at 709-743-4208 to save time while parking. (CBC)

Miminis has a blue zone parking pass, and Parsons said the hospital has added 10 additional such spaces in 2018, with the number of blue zone spaces now double what Service NL requires.

The hospital has received complaints about the tight parking situation, said Parsons. A 1,000-spot parking garage is on the horizon, however, to be built as part of the new mental health and addictions facility.

While that will "dramatically increase parking," said Parsons, that garage is years away from being built.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Cec Haire

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