Accessibility advocate pans proposed QEII parkade location
People with disabilities will have to travel farther and cross a city street to get health care
A Halifax disability advocate says the proposed location for a new hospital parkade will create a barrier to health care.
"It's going to make it more difficult to access our human right of health care. And that's my concern. It's going to create dangerous conditions with the weather in the crosswalk and the cars," Paul Vienneau told CBC News in an interview on Thursday.
The province plans to build an 800-space parking garage on land partially owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
But Vienneau says the 100-metre distance to the hospital is unsafe for the sick, the elderly, and people with mobility issues.
Patients currently have to travel about 17 metres from the hospital, across the pickup and drop off roadway to the existing covered parkade on Robie Street. That parkade will eventually be torn down to make room for other projects.
Vienneau said the new parkade will be more than 100 metres away, forcing patients to cross Summer Street to get to the hospital.
"To me, this is not reasonable," Vienneau said. "And it will discourage me from going to the hospital for things that might not be an emergency."
Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines, whose department is responsible for the construction project, says he doesn't see much of a difference.
"In actuality, the current situation, the parkade is across the street from the … Robie Street entrance," Hines said.
"It'll be a little farther away at the other one. But it's across the street and you have to exit into the outside and then go back into the hospital when you're going there now."
Premier Stephen McNeil says accessibility would have been considered when plans for the parkade were in the works.
"The issue of parking is an important one, that's why we need more of it," McNeil said.
Vienneau said there's a big difference between crossing a city street and crossing the hospital's pick up and drop off roadway — though he said he finds the current crosswalk is already challenging in bad weather.
"In the winter or in rain, I still get snow and rain up into my chair because cars and people are driving through, they are creeping the snow and ice into the cleared crosswalk, which is lovely and flat, but is still open to the elements," he said.
Vienneau doesn't agree with the minister's assessment because he said it indicates that accessibility was never a priority for the hospital's architects.
Before the project moves ahead, he said he'd like someone from the province to join him in a test drive from the parkade's proposed location to the hospital entrance to determine whether the parkade is well-placed.
"We need to take every barrier, real and perceived, out of this scenario because the hospital is there to serve not dog sledders and heroic mountain climbers — it's for all citizens in this region," he said.
With files from Jack Julian and Jean Laroche