If you ever came to any tertiary care hospital during office hours you most likely have gone through the regular predicament, wasting a lot of time searching for a parking lot to become available. It can be a very frustrating exercise, going around and around in circles trying to get a place to park, and for some they go through this agony almost everyday. MoH do not seem to realize the magnitude of this problem for the patients, visitors and even for the staff at tertiary care hospitals.
Undeniably, parking problem has steadily worsened over the years due to many reasons. There is an noticeable growth of motorists during the last few years in Oman. Adding the fifth digits on the plate number is just a clear sign to that. There is an increase in auto sales locally, too, which was estimated to 16% in 2011. According to ROP statistics of 2011, the total number of vehicles on roads is (881360), 10% increase compared to 2010 statistics (804233). But, should that been taken in considerations in the 2020 vision when planning the long-term projects, such as hospitals!?
Here’s a quote from Royal Hospital website: “The Royal Hospital, established in December 1987, is a large, tertiary, acute-care hospital, which provides state-of-the-art services in the specialties and sub-specialties of medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetric & gynecology, oncology and laboratory medicine. It is an important milestone in the development of health services in the Sultanate of Oman during the renaissance programme of the Government of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in this prosperous period of Oman’s contemporary history.” Such an “important milestone project in the development of health services” designed without forecasting it’s expansion as a response to the population boom and huge increase in the number of vehicles in the upcoming future is a very big mistake.
Just a week ago I went to visit a friend of mine at the Royal hospital, yet I was almost to retract due to the plenty advices and complains I got regarding the parking problems there. I got there and, like everyone, spent over 35 minutes just searching for a parking lot. The scene was indescribably unorganized. I wasn’t lucky enough to have a big car like those who were able to haul their cars onto the small unpaved kerb on the sides of the road. Hurried people park haphazardly, leaving their car blocking crosswalks and jutting out from curbs. further congestion caused by the plenty drivers who stop their cars at the main entrance due to severe situations. Obviously everyone have their own reasons and nobody you can blame at that moment.
You might be already stressed if you’re going to the hospital for appointment or treatment. You don't need the extra worry of finding a parking place. The problem is aggravated when you come pack and find a parking fine from ROP glued to your car’s front glass. I don’t think that it’s fair at all, and the police must be more understandable especially in such congested places. I remember a woman being fined for failing to find an adequate parking place while attending an appointment for her son with severe heart problems. ‘I know it’s wrong,’ she said. ‘But people have to drive around for half an hour to find a car parking space at the hospital when they have important medical appointments to keep.’
Many civil engineers have thrown the blame on MoH for ill-planning the main tertiary care hospitals and for failure to expand parking lots for all visitors, patients and staff. MoH has its own problems and cleavages in their planning when building or designing their hospitals as a whole, not only parking spots! Recalling back what happened to AL Nahdha hospital after the torrential rains flooded the hospital, damaging the much of the facility, and cars in the parking area were stacked over each other after they were washed away in the flood last November. Moreover, just few months ago doctors went on strike and Royal Hospital staff held a half-day protest at the hospital’s main entrance calling for more reforms, transparency and an end to corruption in the Ministry of Health (MoH).
There is a plan for a huge expansion at the Royal hospital today, and I’ve seen they’ve already started the building in the opposite side of the hospital’s main building, but until now there is no plans for parking floors system. “The new expansion will enhance the ICU, wards (male and female) and pediatric tumor wards, as well as the offices of doctors, co-coordinators and other supportive services” and there is a plan to add nursery and restaurants area. All that is going to be catastrophic if they’re haven’t take parking floors in mind and linking the main building and the new ones with covered air-conditioned corridors, pedestrian tunnels or covered bridges and linking the necessary parking floors of the two building that are not established yet and I’m not sure if they ever will!
Sami AL Muharbi, Royal Hospital patient, said: “MoH is all mouth and trousers. They’ve said a plan is set to expand the parking area three years ago. What have been done?! Nothing at all yet! If the MoH is very aware of the problem but cannot provide any quick action then definitely we’re at a loose end.
Ismail Al Barghothi, frequent visitor, said: “It’s really becoming a pain in the neck for me, wasting one hour searching everyday twice for a parking slot nearby. I really want the MoH minister to come here for treatment and park his car somewhere here not in the VIP parking. They’ll never understand our feelings until they walk on our shoes.”
Ibrahim Al Amri, patient, indicates that “ Even when they provide parking places, they’re mostly not covered, depriving the patients and visitors of the right to a cool car seat after visiting the hospital”. This is another issue where we live as the temperature is always high. “Hospitals in Oman do not consider special cases like the elderly or the handicapped who find it difficult to walk such a great distance to the office in the scorching heat” he added.
Solutions are essential to be carried quickly in order to avoid further problems. It is important to utilize the large area near the hospital in designing new building with parking floors system so that it is sufficient to cope with the hospital’s capacity and for any future expansions. The new projects and expansion carried at the Royal hospital must put in plan the parking floors suggestion and linking the main building with the new ones and the MoH should shoulder the responsibility regarding the well-designing of the new projects and to take these plans into consideration. All new public hospitals should be forced to provide ample “covered” parking places for their visitors. Not to forget also the medial city project to be established, but when is it going to see the light?! I hope It’ll be very soon because it will definitely lessen the pressure and congestion in the other tertiary care hospitals in Muscat.