Midwife says staff frightened to go to work because of lack of parking at Christchurch Hospital

A midwife at Christchurch Hospital says staff are arriving nearly an hour before their shift starts just to get a park so they don't have to walk by themselves to their cars. 

A lack of parking at the hospital has been an ongoing issue and has seen nurses assaulted, stalked and harassed while walking to their cars. 

An addition to the existing secure car park was meant to be completed last October but Te Whatu Ora Waitaha said the project is being evaluated due to increasing construction costs. 

Speaking with AM on Wednesday, midwife Helen Becconsall said no one should feel scared to go to work. 

"I don't think anyone should have to feel frightened to go to work because they have to get themselves from where they park and into their workplace at anti-social hours when you have all sorts of people out on the street, who are actually not people you necessarily want to meet at that time of the day or night," Becconsall said. 

Becconsall said she's had to drive coworkers to their cars because they're parked so far away and are scared to walk alone. 

"Twice in the last fortnight, I've had workmates that I've said, 'Come to my car and then I will take you to your car'. And when I take them to their cars they are parked on really obscure, dark streets, down the end of wherever the parking space is and if they had to get there on their own walk there, it would be absolutely terrifying for them," she said. 

It was a view shared by fellow midwife Karen Gray who said staff feel threatened getting to their cars and more needs to be done to show the hospital values its employees. 

"I would just really like to see the employers actually valuing the staff that are keeping the community safe," Gray said. 

She said staff are being forced to arrive for their shifts much earlier than needed just to get a park and it's unacceptable. 

"It's an ongoing issue and it shouldn't be something that's happening to people that are coming and working and giving their all at a time when the health system is under so much stress, this is just one more thing that demoralises the staff that are working there. 

"I would like to think the employers are actually valuing the staff, and the staff do feel that. But at the moment, that's a real struggle for our members," she said. 

Te Whatu Ora Waitaha said it is "sympathetic and supportive" of the lack of parking. 

"We are very aware of how vulnerable some of our staff at Christchurch Hospital feel getting to and from their cars in the dark before or after a shift. 

"We recognise that there aren't enough spaces in the area to meet current public and staff demand, which is why we continue to work with Ngāi Tahu, the Ministry of Health, local MPs, Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, the Police and other key partners on finding solutions to improve parking, transport and safety in and around the hospital campus."

Te Whatu Ora Waitaha said it doesn't have a timeline for when the parking extension will be finished but said it's exploring other options in the meantime. 

Other safety initiatives are also in place including priority parking for the night shift. Te Whatu Ora also said security staff are able to walk staff to their cars if they're available.