In response to outcry from staff, the University of Michigan Health System has reversed a controversial new parking plan — one which the Michigan Nurses Association claimed would put nurses and other hospital staff members in danger.
Last month, the University enacted a parking plan that required night-shift staff members without an appropriate parking permit to park at the Wall Street structure instead of the secure structure adjacent to the hospital — which was previously the standard practice. In response to intense outrage from the nurses, the University has reversed course on the new plan.
In a Sept. 16 press release, the MNA wrote nurses feared for their safety parking in the Wall St. structure at night. Though UMHS provides a shuttle service that can take nurses from Wall St. to the hospital, the shuttles don’t run from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., forcing some nurses on the night shift to walk the half-mile from the structure to the University Hospital entrance on East Medical Center Drive.
In the release, several staff members expressed concern with the plan, including that the unreliable shuttle service caused them to be late for their shift, that the walking route was poorly lit and that drunk men accosted them when they were walking late at night. The MNA claimed one staff member was forced to walk the uphill route from Wall St. to the hospital while she was eight months pregnant.
Throughout the week, the MNA reported the University was less than responsive to the nurse’s concerns. Friday, the University agreed to the MNA’s terms, said Dawn Kettinger, communications director for the MNA, meaning nurses could return to parking in the nearby structure and that there would work with nurses to increase safety at the Wall St. structure.
“They’ve agreed to reverse the policy and also to work with the Union to monitor safety at the Wall St. structure in case employees do want to continue parking there,” Kettinger said.
Although Kettinger was glad the University showed concern for the nurses’ safety, she said the plan should never have been enacted in the first place. She claimed UMHS did not consult with any nurses in creating the plan and said the change seemed unnecessary since the closer parking lot usually has plenty of parking at night.
“This plan was just thrown at everybody with no notice and no inclusion, and no discussion with nurses and other employees who would be affected by it,” Kettinger said. “This really shouldn’t have happened.”
Nurses had the option of paying $531 more for a Blue parking pass, which would allow them to park in a closer lot. Previously, the cheaper Yellow pass would allow staff to park in the closer lot.
Thursday, WXYZ Detroit reported 300 nurses had paid for the upgraded passes, but that they would have the option of changing back to a Yellow pass with this newest policy reversal.
This is not the first time the Wall Street structure, which opened July 7, has been the topic of controversy. Originally proposed by UMHS during their 2005 expansion, it has faced criticism from local residents and Ann Arbor City Councilmembers.
UMHS lead public relations representative Kara Gavin could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Daily News Editor Ian Dillingham contributed to this report.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated staff members could pay $531 for a Blue pass. The Blue pass is $531 more than a Yellow pass, not $531 total.
An earlier version has been modified to more accurately reflect a statement from Dawn Kettinger.