Image for Adding insult to injury ....

My 16 year old son payed rugby on Saturday. Burnie Emus against University, from Hobart, at the Burnie ground. During his first touch of the ball, in the second half, on the wing, he got tackled and injured his knee. He was in considerable pain, and was not able to get into our vehicle. St Johns on site called the ambos, and that service, while slightly delayed due to a more urgent case, was professional and competent. They warned us the Burnie A & E department was full up and we would be waiting a while.

They were right.

On arrival at the Burnie Hospital I parked, and was given a ticket which gave me two hours by a departing driver. Alarm set, we settled in for our wait, in the waiting room. When time came to feed the parking machine we had progressed to the emergency room and were expecting a doctor to see my son in the very near future. As the only parent present I needed to be there. I asked about the availability of change, as I do not have a credit card that the machines would accept.

The response from the staff at the hospital was that there was no change available, and while, to their credit, they tried to find change themselves, they were unable to help me. It was suggested that, as the parking lot was nearer empty than full the parking operator would not be paying for patrols due to a lack of return on the wages, I would be fairly safe to just ignore it. So I did. Being with my son as a parent when the doctor showed up was far more important than driving off site to get change, and far more compelling cases than my son’s are easily imagined. Fortunately luck was with me and I got back before the doctor got there and no fines were issued.

My son was x rayed, a soft tissue injury was declared, a splint fitted and we departed, hungry, thirsty and very sore, but otherwise ok. It would have been nice not to have to wait, but the staff were busy, and you cannot have everything. The staff at the hospital were competent, helpful, humorous, and honest. We take this opportunity to thank them for their efforts.

Because I asked, I was told that repeated requests had been made by public contact staff to have change available for parking meters, but that those requests had been denied by management. My response was that the system as it stood was a very direct insult to the attending public, and that it needed to be fixed. I was offered a complaint form, but responded that mobilizing public opinion was a far more effective response.

So here goes …

This is a request to the individuals that are making and implementing decisions about parking at the Burnie hospital. If you are going to continue going down the morally repugnant route of exploiting the sick and injured and their families for private profit then at least do us the small courtesy of allowing the staff at the hospital to provide change for those of us who have the misfortune to have to use your extortionate, taxpayer funded parking lot when we do not have the luxury of preparing ahead for the eventuality.

There is no significant ongoing monetary cost to the hospital for this action, but there is an unacceptable cost to patient’s families for not doing it. All that is needed is to allow the provision of change at the site. No extra staffing, no extra expense beyond the initial float, say $100.00. Even better, force the parking company to install a change making machine and nullify fines when it fails to operate.

Add in the disruption caused to the functioning of the emergency ward and the distress for a patient when a much needed parent or relative is away hunting for change for the parking meter and the real cost to the overall health system is far greater than any gain from the kickbacks generated by fines being generated.

To be clear, the calculation apparent from what I learned was this:

(By not allowing its staff to make change available, the hospital administration is calculating that more parking fines will be issued and that the overall revenue to the parking operator will be increased.)

Presumably the hospital is benefiting officially from this obnoxious arrangement, and it is therefore documented. That is something the Minister, via the Auditor General, needs to confirm immediately. If the arrangement is illegal, those responsible need to be publicly identified and punished, severely and soon. Two phone calls and a fax should do the trick so an answer is expected by mid week.

(Regardless, this arrangement needs to cease. Those being targeted for fines are the families of patients whose attention is with the sick and injured, where it belongs. They do not deserve greed-driven fines compounding their plight. If my assessment of the situation is correct then that plight is being ruthlessly exploited by publicly employed individuals whose moral compass needs removing from the lower end of their bowels and placing somewhere more appropriate. Something the Minister should do, well before his party ask for our votes again.)

(Alternatively, our health budget is in a far more parlous state than is publicly understood, and a new Minister is needed, or perhaps a new Government.)

I am fortunate that my son’s injury is not serious. I was not fined, and I have not been distracted from being able to sit down and write this. Doubtless others have struck this unacceptable situation and because of their other concerns not gone public. My sympathies are with them and this is done for them and all others who share the dilemma.

And the rugby game? A hard fought draw, which was a fitting result from a great display of sportsmanship and skill between two very different teams. Unfortunately it is the last home game of the season, and my son’s last as he works Saturday nights, but there is always next year to look forward to. It was my son’s first year of seniors rugby, and he played his first ever game as a 16 year old in the seniors. As a parent I was apprehensive, but he is big for his age and confident in his ability. He has thrived and matured with the competition.

A more supportive, welcoming and enjoyable sporting club environment is hard to imagine, and despite the injury I hope he plays again next year. Well done and thank you to all involved.

*Simon Warriner  is currently a dairy worker living on a rural property in NW Tasmania. He enjoys, in no particular order, watching his son grow into a man, watching local rugby, writing and pointing out the often glaring dissonances in public administration. Happy coincidence allowed all four to be satisfied this weekend.