TRURO - A man who travelled for more than four hours to visit a dying relative was forced to park at Walmart Saturday night because the parking lot at the Truro hospital was full.
Doctors, hospital staff and other visitors were also adversely affected with parking issues created by the opening-night crowds at the Rath EastLink Community Centre (RECC), said a spokesperson, who described the situation as "very concerning."
"We are aware of situations where visitors were held up or not given priority access as planned and where staff and physicians were late for shifts or unable to get to the site quickly, because they could not get through the traffic or find parking," said Krista Wood, spokeswoman for the Colchester East Hants Health Authority, of the traffic situation that developed Saturday night for the Bearcats opening game at the new arena.
"This is very concerning and we have a meeting booked for tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon with our parking committee to discuss these concerns and solutions."
When the hospital site was selected, Wood said, "the civic centre was not yet planned, and since their site was announced our teams have had ongoing discussions to try and proactively plan for parking."
The health authority has an agreement with the RECC to allow for overflow parking a number of times a year during major events, she said.
The agreement stipulates that overflow parking is only to occur during non-peak times (weekends and evenings) and that patients, visitors and staff "must have priority over event goers" and no overflow parking is to be permitted in the emergency lot.
"RECC visitors were originally directed to our large public lot and once there were only 30-40 spaces remaining, we closed that lot to those attending the hockey game to ensure spaces were held for patients and the visitors," Wood said. "Event goers were then redirected to our large staff lot, again, reserving spaces for staff. Once that lot reached the allowable capacity we closed our lots to all event goers," Wood said.
Truro resident Walter McLean, who was visiting a dying friend on Saturday night, expressed outright frustration and anger at the situation when the man's nephew arrived from Yarmouth and was unable to find a parking spot. The man eventually made his way to the Walmart parking lot and walked to the hospital. His uncle subsequently died on Sunday.
"I was severely pissed," McLean said. "We've got a beautiful new hospital and a beautiful new rec centre right beside it and this shouldn't happen."
McLean said the nephew arrived at the hospital around 8:20 p.m. only to find the entire parking lot full.
"He could not get a parking space other than for handicapped and he wouldn't park there because he respects the laws," McLean said.
"He was ticked. Why should he have to park way the heck over there, (with) his uncle in the hospital dying? I mean great big parking lots and the parking lots (used) for hockey fans. If they don't have a big enough parking lot for Rath Eastlink Community Centre, they should build a bigger parking lot."
Beyond today's meeting, Wood said the health authority will also be following up with the RECC officials and local law enforcement to discuss ways to help avoid future issues, including whether they can provide additional security and direct traffic to enter from the opposite end of Abenaki Road.
"There are many benefits for our communities that are offered by the RECC and there are many benefits to being neighbours," she said. "This is a learning period and we are confident that we work with them to find ways to avoid future situations like these."