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Earlier this year, more than 250 parking spots for hospital employees were converted to patient-only spaces, making it challenging for hospital staff to find parking and get to work on time. At the Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 18, dozens of nurses showed up wearing red shirts holding signs that read “Schlissel: Fix Parking Now!” At that same Regents meeting, the board approved a new $920 million hospital.
Mary Masson, spokesperson for Michigan Medicine, wrote in an email to The Daily that the University of Michigan has been aware of parking concerns for a while now, for both patients and employees. Masson said in order to try to create a better experience for patients and their families, they converted employee spaces to patient spaces.
“We recognize parking is currently a challenge for our employees and our patients,” Masson wrote. “Recent changes have already made parking easier for patients: in August we created more than 250 spaces for patient parking because patients were missing or late to appointments, or just arriving quite stressed out by the parking process.”
Leah Karr, a nurse at Mott’s Children’s Hospital, said she understood the need for more patient parking, as she has a child who is a frequent patient at Mott. However, Karr said the converted parking spots disproportionately affected nurses and other direct bedside employees and can put them in dangerous situations if their shifts end late at night.
“I also have a son that has a chronic medical condition, and I spend a bit of time at the hospital as a parent as well, so there definitely was a very strong need for increased patient and visitor parking at the hospital hands down, I do not disagree with that,” Karr said. “However, the solution that they came up with was to maintain that top level of parking — the gold parking — and cut the blue parking, which really affects a lot of direct bedside employees. And then, so they’re forced to go to outline lots, which would be OK, except there is not reliable and safe transportation to get the employees to work on time. The shuttles do not run frequently enough and many of the lots are not well lit, and so you’re asking them to go back out to their cars late at night. It’s a problem.”
A University of Michigan graduate and current registered nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital has asked to remain anonymous to protect her job. She will be referred to as Nurse 1.
Nurse 1 said she can attest to struggling to find parking as a hospital employee. She expressed that she has been late to work as a result of these difficulties and feels like the University doesn’t prioritize the needs of those working in often undervalued hospital positions, such as nurses and clerks.
“Parking is a daily hassle,” Nurse 1 said. “In the first two months of work, I was late twice because of it. It comes up almost daily on my unit as it being an issue. That being said, it’s a problem for everyone, patients included. The solutions that they’ve come up with don’t solve anything though, and a lot of times it feels like the critical employees are put on the back burner when they make decisions. Without us though, you have no functional organization.”
Masson said Michigan Medicine has heard the nursing union's concerns, and that a new parking lot will open in the fall of 2020.
“We also have listened to staff and have made improvements: adding more buses, more direct express routes and more low-cost and free remote parking spaces with shuttle service for employees,” Masson wrote. “A new garage for employees on Wall Street is under construction and opens in fall 2020 with more than 1,000 parking spots.”
Masson noted the new 12-story hospital, that is supposed to open in 2024, will be incorporated into the overall parking strategies to offer reliable parking and transportation options.
LSA junior Rayna Shamah emphasized the importance of nurses in a hospital environment. She cited her own personal experience as a patient, saying the nurses made her feel the most cared for.
“When I was in the hospital, nurses were the figures that provided hands on support and helped me get through my time there,” Shamah said. “They kind of personalized the whole experience and allowed me to feel cared for, and that they actually wanted to help me. I wasn’t just another person coming through the hospital that they needed to take care of.”
Shamah said the University should realize how important nurses are and prioritize their safety as well.
“I feel like it makes them feel undervalued when they’re not given parking spaces,” Shamah said “Which makes them late for work and makes them miss out on patient care, which could be very vital for the patient. The patient always comes first, and the University should know that, and care about their nurses’ safety and well being.”
Ultimately, Karr said she loves her job, and she just wants to be able to do the best she can.
“I love being a nurse, I love what I do,” Karr said, “and I just want my colleagues to get to and from the hospital 24/7 safely.”