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Parking Fee Fiasco Afflicts Hospital Guests Amidst Shortage of Parking Spaces

โ€ฆ๐’‘๐’–๐’ƒ๐’๐’Š๐’„ ๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’„๐’Œ๐’๐’‚๐’”๐’‰ ๐’ˆ๐’“๐’๐’˜๐’” ๐’‚๐’” ๐‘ฑ๐‘ซ๐‘พ๐‘ต๐‘น๐‘ฏ ๐’ˆ๐’“๐’‚๐’‘๐’‘๐’๐’†๐’” ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’–๐’๐’‡๐’‚๐’Š๐’“ ๐’‘๐’‚๐’“๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‘๐’“๐’‚๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’„๐’†๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’๐’‘๐’†๐’“๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’๐’‚๐’ ๐’”๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’Š๐’๐’”

Krishna Kumar Sanyasi

The Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) is a prominent healthcare facility in Bhutan, serving as a crucial referral centre for patients from across the country. With its extensive infrastructure and specialised medical services, JDWNRH plays a vital role in providing advanced healthcare to the people of Bhutan. However, in recent days,
JDWNRH finds itself entangled in a controversy regarding exorbitant parking fees that have ignited public outrage. Visitors, particularly those facing extended stays, bear hefty charges, exacerbating their already challenging circumstances.

Parking collection is outsourced to private entities; however, hospital staff enjoy exemptions from fees. Apparently, the discretionary nature of fee collections by collators has resulted in discontent among those affected. This emphasizes the urgent need for a balanced solution that alleviates the financial burden on individuals while ensuring the hospital’s operational needs are met, aligning with its commitment to accessible healthcare for all.

Visitors to the hospital, especially those with prolonged stays, have raised their voices against the significant financial burden imposed by parking fees. A 55-year-old man shared his 35-day experience at JDWNRH, where his wife undergoes daily treatment. They have paid a parking fee of Nu 3500, expressing concern about the affordability of high parking fees in a hospital offering free medical services. He questioned the absence of parking fee concessions and highlighted ongoing treatment, accumulating additional parking fees until discharge.

Insights from a parking fee collector revealed that a businessman won the parking tender with a bid of Nu.56 lakhs. Collectors are obligated to meet daily targets, complicated by the exemption of around 60 hospital staff from parking fees. This exemption makes it challenging to meet daily revenue targets, and collectors often struggle to reach their quotas.

Moreover, he added, โ€œSome individuals have been exploiting their connections to hospital staff to avoid paying parking fees. Some cars, bearing staff cards, have been parking on hospital premises without authorization, despite not belonging to hospital employees. Some individuals, claiming to be relatives or family members of hospital staff, have been verbally aggressive and abusive towards fee collectors when confronted about parking violations.

Others choose to park their vehicles and dash off without paying. When confronted about the parking fee, these individuals resort to verbal abuse, leaving the parking fee collector feeling helpless and frustrated. Adding to the chaos, some offenders go as far as challenging the collectors to involve the authorities, including the police. Caught in a difficult position where their income hinges on meeting daily targets, where they do not have monthly salary the collectors are left to grapple with the decision of whether to engage in conflicts or endure the disrespect.

โ€œStaff vehicles occupy prime parking spaces without any cost, leaving the public to tackle for space and pay for it. If staff enjoys a waiver, why not extend the same privilege to everyone? Visitors come to the hospital for specific purposes, not for leisure,โ€ he further added.

He revealed that the only possible way to achieve their daily targets is in the morning rush hours when people visit for check-ups. He also shared that these parking fees do not go to the hospital directly but rather to the winning bidder of the parking contract, who, in turn, shares a certain percentage with the hospital management

A staff member expressed concerns about the current tender-based parking system, stating, “The parking shouldn’t be in a tender base. Now, if the number of tenders increases next year, the parking fee will have to be raised. This is because the daily target will increase simultaneously, and furthermore, there is not enough space to extend the parking space. If the hospital could manage its parking on its own, then the parking fee would be lower or nonexistent.”

A parking fee collector said, โ€œThere is a lack of proper demarcation and organization, leading to numerous instances of misparking, misdirection, and occasional chaos. Recently, a critical incident occurred where an emergency vehicle was unable to access a space due to congestion. The absence of clearly defined boundaries exacerbates the situation, making it imperative to address this issue promptly.”

JDWNRH has four parking areas, each with a capacity of around 200 vehicles, and the space is still insufficient, causing problems due to people from all over the country coming to JDWNRH for checkups, leading to traffic congestion. The parking fees are collected from 8 am to 9 pm. For light vehicles, Nu 15 is collected for 30 minutes of parking and Nu 5 for two-wheelers.

A hospital visitor suggested that collecting a minimal parking fee could be an option. โ€œHospital visits take more than two hours and sometimes even longer. Then we have to pay about a hundred ngultrums,โ€ he added. Another visitor said, โ€œI saw a lot of signboards around JDWNRH that says parking fee is Nu. 5 for 30 minutes and Nu. 10 for one hour for two-wheelers and Nu. 10 for 30 minutes and Nu. 20 per hour for cars, yet parking fee collectors never charge that amount.โ€ โ€œThey charge a minimum of Nu. 40 for an hour. I even told them their signboard says it is only Nu. 5 for 30 minutes for two-wheelers and Nu. 20 per hour for cars and they argue saying that rate is wrong so I had to pay Nu. 40 per hour every time,โ€ he added.

In a bold move, an individual has brought forth a pressing issue to the attention of the management for a parking facility. Expressing apprehension over the discrepancy in pricing, the concerned individual has urged the management to rectify the situation promptly. The individual highlighted that the current signboard rates of Nu. 5 for 30 minutes for two-wheelers and Nu. 20 per hour for cars may be inaccurate and requested a correction to be made by displaying the accurate fees. The individual also raised a grave accusation, suggesting that if the signboard fee is indeed accurate, then the parking fee collectors are engaging in unethical practices by overcharging unsuspecting patrons. The individual emphasized that such actions amount to nothing short of exploitation of the public and advocated for strict measures to ensure that the collectors adhere strictly to the rates displayed on the official signboard.

As the hospital continues to provide quality medical services, the issue of parking fees remains contentious, highlighting the need for a balanced approach that eases the financial burden on people while meeting the hospitalโ€™s operational requirements. The voices of those affected by these charges are becoming increasingly vocal, calling for a resolution that aligns with the hospitalโ€™s mission of providing accessible healthcare to all

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