Parking changes frustrate hospital staff, medical unions

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 - 7:23pm

.

Design by Vivian Harber

Approximately 280 faculty parking spaces were converted to patient-only parking near the University of Michigan hospital in mid-August. The changes force many hospital staff members to park in off-site locations or find other methods of transportation.

The parking designation transfer is necessary for an improved patient experience, according to a statement from Beata Mostafavi, Michigan Medicine senior communications representative. 

“As Michigan Medicine continues to grow, parking around the main medical campus has become an increasing challenge for both patients and employees,” Mostafavi said. “The recent parking changes provided 280 more spaces for our patients to make it easier to obtain care at the hospital.”

But according to Robin Tarter, executive director of the House Officers Association at Michigan Medicine, the actions go against the HOA’s agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, which requires the hospital to provide designated parking spots to on-call employees.

“We have a collective bargaining agreement,” Tarter said. “We have specific language where the employer is supposed to provide parking for residents that are designated for being on-call. There is obviously no designated parking.”

As a result of these changes, the Michigan Nurses Association and University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council filed unfair labor practice charges with the state of Michigan in August, according to Tarter.

Tarter said the changes force hospital staff to pay significantly more money for their parking spots. 

“People who have been parking for, for example, $100 a year for maybe decades are now being charged maybe $700 or $800 a year for the same parking spot,” Tarter said. “We agree that there needs to be parking for patients. We’re not arguing that, but we believe administrators who do not have any involvement with patient care do not need to be parking close to the building. It’s been an ongoing problem for a very long time, and now we’re in a crisis situation.”

According to UMPNC chair Katie Oppenheim, parking at the hospital has been an ongoing challenge.

“Parking has been an issue at the hospital for decades,” Oppenheim said. “While the health system has grown — multiplied many times over in the previous years — the parking has not increased. For example, when they built the children's hospital, they did not put parking underneath the building.”

Oppenheim said parking difficulties add an increased amount of stress to hospital staff, particularly nurses, before the start of their shifts, and can ultimately decrease quality of care.

“You want people who aren’t stressed and are relaxed when they come into work for their shift,” Oppenheim said. “Our first goal, and everyone’s first goal, should be the patients, and providing what we believe is something mandatory, mainly, access to the workplace. ”

Jayne Hubscher, Nursing senior and president of the Student Nurses’ Association, said she and other nursing students often walk or find other modes of transportation to the hospital as a result of the parking challenges.

Hubscher said a lack of reliable parking is a major concern when clinical trials occur early in the morning or late at night.

“Our clinicals, a lot of times, will start at 6 or 6:30 a.m. so if you live far from the hospital you have to wake up even earlier, like 4:30 or 5 (a.m.) to have time to get ready and walk to the hospital,” Hubscher said. “Sometimes we have late clinicals, too, that end around 11 p.m. I had one last semester and then walking home was always an issue as well.”

Mostafavi said many other forms of transportation are available and will continue to be implemented with the creation of a new parking deck next year and 960 new employee parking spots. 

Tarter said she hopes to have clear dialogue in the future with Michigan Medicine to help remedy the issues.

“I would say that the Michigan Medicine leadership needs to understand that since I’ve been here, we’ve gone from having 900 residents and fellows to nearly 1,300, and we have not built any adjacent parking structures to the hospital,” Tarter said. “That being said, how do you realign the parking structures we have for those clinicians that need to be at the bedside? We would love to have a dialogue and do some real problem solving.”