Calls for provision of more parking at Craigavon Hospital
New parking enforcement measures at Craigavon Area Hospital have caused anger among visitors who have demanded that the focus should be on creating more spaces.
From Monday traffic wardens will patrol the grounds, issuing fines of up to £60 to illegally parked cars, with clamping and towing also in operation.
The new measures for the site, which currently has around 1,800 spaces, were brought in after a public survey about parking problems.
One incident in February saw illegally parked cars block a fire engine from entering.
Frustrated hospital users have insisted the enforcement measures are not enough to address the growing parking demand.
Esther Gishkori, director of acute services for the Southern Trust, explained the decision.
"Our recent car parking survey indicated support for enforcement to help prevent abuse of disabled spaces and red zones," she said.
"Even when there are spaces available, cars are still parking inappropriately and in disabled spaces without displaying a blue badge.
"It is absolutely vital that we protect emergency routes and allow ease of drop-off for those who need to access the hospital."
She added that the situation would be kept under review.
Local DUP councillor Margaret Tinsley welcomed the new measures, but said they were not enough to solve the congestion problems.
"Nobody likes enforcement coming in, but if you're parked legally you've nothing to fear," she said.
"At the same time this will only alleviate the illegal parking.
"We have a fantastic facility which is constantly being upgraded, but I do think the trust need to increase parking to accommodate that."
Commenting on councillor Tinsley's Facebook page, many hospital users vented their frustration.
Samara Prentice said: "I agree wholeheartedly that cars parked illegally or dangerously should be fined, however the car parking situation at CAH is appalling."
Suzanne Hanna said: "When they were doing all that work recently they should also have built a multi-storey.
"It's not rocket science."
Rebekah Alexander stated: "Is there going to be more parking supplied?
"Hospital is ridiculous to get parked at.
"And now to be fining people who wish to visit relatives is a joke."
Simon Cooke added: "Insufficient car park spaces, so instead of dealing with the problem, just make some money off people."
Most parking spaces on the Craigavon site are free of charge.
The four car parks closest to the main hospital buildings charge £1.20 for the first hour with an extra 60p for each additional hour.
Concessions are available for patients with certain conditions.
In January last year figures from the Department of Health revealed that in 2015 Craigavon Area Hospital brought in £473,975 from parking charges - the highest amount of any hospital outside Belfast and almost twice as much as the second highest earner, Altnagelvin in Derry.
Councillor Tinsley added: "Whether the car park makes money or not, they need to be upgrading the parking facilities for people, especially for those travelling long distances and for families.
"I'm one of those people that use it and struggle to get parked - it's frustrating.
"But it's not the only hospital it's happening at."
The new enforcement measures will apply from the Lurgan Road entrance along the main hospital avenue and around the front of the hospital, along the blue light route, and include the drop-off zones.
Enforcement will also apply to vehicles parked in disabled spaces throughout the site without displaying a valid blue badge.