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Hospital parking hell forcing sick kids on long trek

Sick and terminally ill children have been forced to walk from outside hospital grounds to attend treatment because of car park chaos at the Royal Group of Hospitals in Belfast.

Roads into the Belfast Trust grounds are regularly snarled up with lengthy queues attempting to get into the visitors’ car park, meaning many people are forced to park at the nearby Park Centre shopping mall.

One distraught parent, whose daughter has leukaemia, described her distress at missing their appointment on Wednesday because she was stuck in a queue of cars outside the hospital.

Caroline Cunningham, from Lisburn, had driven her 13-year-old daughter to the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children to attend an appointment.

The girl’s grandmother had accompanied them and after they sat in a queue for half-an-hour, Mrs Cunningham asked her mother to bring her daughter into the hospital, while she parked the car.

“My mother decided to go ahead with my daughter to get her bloods checked before our appointment with the consultant,” Mrs Cunningham said.

“The car park queue wasn’t moving but we thought I would have got parked by then. Instead, I had to text my mum a list of questions to ask the doctor because I was still stuck in the queue.

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“When my mother and daughter finished at 11am I was still in the queue with six cars in front of me — an hour-and-a-half later.

The mother-of-two said parking at the hospital was so bad that she had arranged to have her daughter’s chemotherapy treatment |administered by her own GP rather than attend the Royal. The 13-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia, a form of cancer of the blood, last October.

Mrs Cunningham said she knew of many parents with terminally ill children who parked outside the hospital because of the car park problems.

The Royal Hospital site in west Belfast has been dogged by long car park queues for years.

In a statement yesterday, the Belfast Trust said it has built 130 extra car parking spaces and is constructing an additional 230 spaces at the adjacent Broadway site. It described a number of schemes to reduce queues, including the use of public transport, car sharing, cycle to work schemes and park and ride facilities.

It added: “The public can play their part by using private cars only if there is no other suitable means of transport available.”

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