Sentinel leader column: Parking row is sick joke
N O self-respecting, publicity-conscious supermarket would ever dream of making such a mistake. So why is it that our region's biggest hospital has plonked its disabled parking spaces a full 70 metres from its front door? Disabled drivers have already proved they can't walk any further than 50 metres, without excruciating pain, to claim their blue badge. So it seems like a sick joke worthy of a Ricky Gervais sketch, to place the disabled parking bays 20 metres further down the path. The joke becomes even darker as disabled patients are left demanding that hospital mangers rip up the landscaped and seating area half way between car park and building, so they can reach their doctors' appointments without doubling-up in agony. The new £400m University Hospital of North Staffordshire is a place of which our whole region can rightly be proud. There is no debate that it is a far, far better hospital than the tired and outmoded institution which it replaced. However it's a shame that this new hospital may have overlooked the needs of one group of particularly vulnerable patients.
I t's difficult to see how this dispute can be resolved. Whatever the problems of disabled patients – and the protesters do appear to have a water-tight case – demolishing a newly-built, paved plaza is a radical suggestion. Can alternative disabled spaces not be set up, closer to another hospital entrance? Perhaps there is even a case for ferrying drivers with walking difficulties from their cars, using hospital wheelchairs? Hospital planners and managers have backed themselves into a corner. Yesterday on this page, city MP Tristram Hunt called for the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympics to be a new and more positive attitude towards disabled people. Unfortunately UHNS appears to be in no position to heed that call.
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