Carpark woes at the Hospital

Do you know that Hospital Sultanah Aminah is now charging parking fees for vehicles parked in the hospital compound?

This sign, with the procedure for paying parking fees, is
placed just walking distance away from the exit
I made this startling discovery in the wee hours of the morning recently when I sent a friend involved in a motor accident, to the Accident & Emergency department.  It was past midnight and with the carpark understandably less crowded, I hoped to find a parking space quickly.  But I was stopped by two carpark attendants sitting in semi-darkness and one of them handed me a carpark ticket.

The A & E department, however, was jam-packed with patients.  The Triage staff assessed my friend’s condition, which did not look critical, and advised us to go home and return in the morning as the wait for consultation was going to be long.  We took their advice and when I retrieved my car to exit the carpark, the attendant asked for parking fees!

I reasoned that we spent hardly a few minutes speaking to the Triage staff before we decided to leave and should be within the grace period.  After conferring between themselves, the carpark attendants agreed to waive the fees.  This was how I discovered that HSA was charging carpark fees.

The queue of cars crawling to the exit, started from the
porch of the polyclinic at Sultanah Aminah Hospital
A few weeks later, I had a chat with my HSA doctor friend who confirmed that the hospital decided to implement parking fees after much deliberation.  The parking situation was just getting impossible.  Besides dealing with patients’ medical needs, the hospital administration had to cope with car-parking problems, not just with patients, but also among hospital staff!

Inconsiderate parking that obstructed other drivers, caused tempers to flare and even the recently implemented car-parking fees, have not provided a viable solution to the parking problems.  With too many cars and too few spaces, patients and visitors often find it impossible to get a proper parking space.  The carpark in front of the A & E department is notorious for haphazard parking, typically with vehicles parked on the curb and over the landscaped garden!

Staff parking spilled over from the staff carpark into the public section where the problem is compounded by spaces perpetually occupied by vehicles that everyone suspects, were parked early in the morning by car-owners who carpool or commute by public transport to work in Singapore.

My doctor friend said that every morning, the road into the hospital compound from Jalan Mahmoodiah was choked with cars queuing to collect their parking tickets at that entry point into HSA.  Cars backed up all the way to Jalan Mahmoodiah, often obstruct the vehicles of staff and patients who were turning into the road to the Mahmoodiah outpatient clinic.

Patients, who can only afford to pay a nominal fee for consultation at the public hospital, are hopping mad because they now have to pay parking fees that are being clocked up by the hours spent in long waits in the hospital.

A bunting notifying the public about the
fees charged for parking with effect from
15 June 2015
As a HSA regular to collect prescriptions or accompany either of my parents for their clinic consultations, I’m familiar with the routine.  We first queue to collect a number to join the queue to get the room number for consultation with the assigned doctor.  After waiting to meet the doctor, patients would receive a prescription and they join another queue at the pharmacy to pick up their drugs.  There are sometimes queues to wait for turns for a blood test or to take weight or answer questionnaires.

Most patients are reluctant to pay the parking fees in the poorly designed carpark and end up feeling not only physically sick but also frustrated by the traffic congestion within the carpark.  I’m sure car-owners would be willing to pay the parking charges if the hospital built a multi-storey carpark and had more orderly parking.

I recently sent my mother to HSA for her eye check-up appointment at the polyclinic and after dropping her off at the porch, my car could hardly move because the queue was inching its way into a bottleneck to the exit.  I spotted the payment booth at the far end of the porch while the signboard with parking ticket payment instructions was situated under some trees, between the booth and the exit.

From my vantage point, I observed that drivers who realized too late that they could not exit because their ticket was unpaid, were causing further delay.  They had no alternative but to leave their vehicles and go to the payment booth to get their ticket paid first.

Drivers in a similar predicament, parked and left their cars indiscriminately along the road to get their tickets paid at the booth.  It was a chaotic scene of tired, ill and frustrated vehicle owners trekking back to settle payments before they could drive out.

The queue in front of me was not going to move within the 15-minute grace period and I did not want to risk reaching the exit only to discover that my ticket had exceed the time limit.  It was better to be safe than sorry so I made the decision to leave my stationery car and run across the porch to the booth.

Drivers getting out of their cars to go to pay their
parking fees while leaving their cars to obstruct traffic!
I asked the staff about the validity of my ticket as I only did a “drop-off” and pointed to the queue in the bottleneck that did not look like it was going to clear soon.  One of the staff who appeared reluctant to validate my ticket, consulted with another and they finally decided to do it. 

I saw sheets of laminated paper, printed with payment instructions and attached to the gantry arm at the entry points.  But these proved rwather ineffective because it’s quite impossible to read when one was driving, taking a ticket and the gantry arm was raised!

The carpark operator should put up signboards or posters with payment instructions at strategic spots inside the buildings to remind users about fee payment before retrieving cars.  It’s a learning process for everyone and this information may be shared in conversations while waiting – and we certainly spend a great deal of time waiting here.

A version of this was published in the November 2015 issue of The Iskandarian

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