DISABLED patients and visitors are fuming over the siting of a scanner unit blocking up to five disabled parking spaces.
For at least a month a mobile MRI vehicle has been taking up the spaces within the car park at the Conquest Hospital.
Patients have also slammed the recent changes to the parking regime for disabled visitors, saying it is now much harder to find a spot and many people are having to walk a lot further to get to the hospital’s main entrance.
Sandie Carlyon, from Dane Road, St Leonards, said she had spoken to quite a number of irate visitors left reeling over the recent changes to parking.
She said: “Beforehand Blue Badge holders could park for any length of time for free. Now it’s only up to three hours.
“Blue Badge holders also used to be able to park in any space free of charge but now can only park free in a disabled bay.
“I visit the hospital four times a week and on one day it took me more than 25 minutes to find a disabled space. Rather than making it easier the Conquest has made the situation worse. Visiting hours start at 2.30pm but there is usually nowhere to park.
“Five of the disabled spaces are frequently taken up by medical vehicles, such as the MRI scanner.”
Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “Why does the unit have to be parked in disabled parking bays? If it improves services, all well and good, but it should not be in Blue Badge spaces.
“Disabled patients now also have to walk much further uphill from outside the Richard Ticehurst ward to get to the main entrance and many patients have difficulty walking. It’s ridiculous.”
A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both the Conquest and Eastbourne DGH, said: “In September, we responded to feedback from Blue Badge holders and created more disabled parking spaces closer to hospital entrances.
“At both Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH these additional spaces allowed Blue Badge holders to park for free for three hours.
“At Conquest the number of Blue Badge spaces has increased from 28 to 45, meaning 15 per cent of the total 298 parking spaces are dedicated to disabled parking. This number of Blue Badge spaces is well above the Department of Transport recommended number of 15.”
He said the mobile MRI and CT units parked on some of the disabled spaces outside the hospital have only been there once a week.
He added: “This is a temporary measure and is necessary to be able to treat more patients and to ensure waiting times are kept down. They have to be situated in that particular location as it gives patients suitable access from the hospital and is where the necessary power supply is located.
“Unfortunately, the units take up some Blue Badge parking spaces but, even with the loss of those spaces, the number of Blue Badge spaces available to patients remains significantly higher than the Department of Transport guidelines and is more than the provision previously available.”
George Melling, the trust’s commercial director, said: “We listened to Blue Badge holders’ feedback about their parking arrangements at both hospitals. We increased the number of disabled spaces and put them closer to the entrances to the hospitals, reducing the travel distance before entering the hospital.”