RCH upgrades parking

Published 1:09 pm Monday, March 7, 2016

AHOSKIE – Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital is seeking to increase the amount of parking space available along Curtis Street for patients and visitors in the Emergency Room parking area and put that request before the Ahoskie Town Council at their February meeting.

A similar request before Council had been considered several years ago, but was denied due to congestion.

Matt Bradley with VRCH Police appeared before Council and said the hospital’s Emergency Department is busier than ever with traffic in 2016.

“There are some days our census averages as high as 85 per day (seeking ED care), with Sunday and Tuesday being especially heavy volume days,” Bradley stated. “We have 17 spaces in the Emergency Room parking lot. We can’t create any more real estate, we have what we have and we try to be as courteous to the patients and family members as we can.”

Bradley said hospital surveys reveal a growing number of complaints from patients and families about there not being enough parking spaces.

“Some elderly people have to go around to the front of the hospital, go all the way through the hospital to get back to their loved ones,” he said. “What we’re asking you is to remove those ‘No Parking’ signs on Curtis Street and allow us three more parking spaces just in that one area.”

Bradley says there’s no request for additional parking south than to the entry way to the stop sign at Curtis and Memorial. He also indicated that sometimes Emergency vehicles and law enforcement vehicles use the limited ED parking space because “there’s just nowhere else for them to park”.

“Sometimes for a motor vehicle accident we may have three or four ambulances at a time coming in and it’s congesting the current parking area,” he said. “They’re normally there for 15 to 20 minutes after they unload their patients, cleaning the truck and filling out paperwork, etc. A lot of time they’re parking there on the street because there’s no room in the parking lot for them to park.”

Bradley said the hospital would love to have more spaces, much more; but admitted that wasn’t feasible to park on both sides of the street for the safety of traffic flow.

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn wondered if additional parking were to be made available in the employee parking area if that would alleviate some of the congestion.

“If we did that you’d have that other area for the parking of emergency-room vehicles,” Blackburn reasoned. “There are probably people who could afford to walk to the employee parking area to get their vehicles versus people who are trying to get to the emergency room.”

Councilman Charles Freemen wanted it cleared that the hospital would like expanded parking in the area adjacent to the ER as well as additionally along Curtis Street.

“There’s no public entrance on the Memorial Drive side, its employee entrance only,” Bradley stated. “We don’t have ambulances that are there all the time, but it’s a help to them getting in and out and for their supplies as opposed to walking all the way across the street from another parking lot.”

Former Councilwoman Elaine Myers, appearing as a citizen, expressed concern that the areas suggested be for emergency parking only.

“Because if it is not, then I can tell you that your employees will be parking there,” Myers said.

After viewing maps of the area to be designated for expansion, Town Manager Tony Hammond pointed out that with parking on the street, there’d be no way to get two lanes of traffic going north and south.

“You’re only going to be able to get one,” Hammond stated.

Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh requested that if the additional spaces were approved that the designated areas could be marked for emergency vehicles and law enforcement only and not for the general public. Councilman Justin Freeman asked if there would be a time limit in effect for drop-offs as well as self deliveries.

“That would be where a loved one drops you off and then pull into a less convenient place after the emergency is taken care of, if that’s realistic,” he noted.

Bradley said on-street parking violations would be enforced by the town police department versus hospital security. He also said there is signage indicating “Emergency Parking Only” and in the employee lot it says “Employee Parking”, but not ‘only’.

The hospital also said if the request was approved that the beginning and ending space in each requested area be designated ‘No Parking’ to ensure clear visibility of exiting vehicles moving north or south on Curtis, when exiting the Emergency parking area.

“Maybe we could get signs that say ‘Overflow Parking’ or something,” Bradley said. “We don’t know everything, but we are trying to improve.”

Following the discussion, Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse made a motion for Council to approve three additional spaces for Emergency Department general parking (blue area) and three more in the area designated for emergency and law enforcement vehicles exclusively (green area). The motion was seconded by Blackburn and passed Council by a unanimous vote.