Times of Oman
Nov 27, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 01:45 AM GMT
Baying Blues - Muscat government hospitals grappling with lack of parking areas
April 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A view of parking space at Khoula Hospital in Muscat. Photo - Hi Weekly

A few days back, 29 year old Ahmad Al Ghadani, a resident of Al Hamriyyah, had to rush to the hospital with severe stomach ache. Speeding in his car, he reached the hospital in no time. Entering the parking premises however, he came to a dead end. Traffic was backed up and not moving at all.

Writhing in pain, he haplessly struggled through the traffic for nearly an hour, before he could found a tight spot to plunk his car and rush in. His traffic-jam trepidation was finally over. 

Clogged lanes and cars vying for space is a common spectacle in the parking areas of Hospitals in the capital city these days. Vehicles can be seen moving at snail's pace, and frenzied motorists negotiating shoulder lanes, causing further delays in vehicular movement. 

The situation is worse especially during the wee hours from 9 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon, visitors could be seen doing rounds in the parking, exiting and re-entering the parking hopelessly searching for a parking spot for their vehicle. A public relations official at the Khoula Hospital, on terms of anonymity, said there was "significant disruption" for patients owing to the parking problem, adding there were also at times unacceptable delays in ambulances accessing the site due to the density of congestion. 

The ever increasing number of cars, along with a rapidly expanding infrastructure has led to a sheer parking space crunch across the city. "The problem is everywhere; from hospitals to shopping malls, to other major business hubs, everywhere the commuters face the blues while parking. Every now and then the parking areas are re-planned and expanded. But the situation more or less remains the same," says another official from Al Nahda Hospital.

New constructions and road repairs near hospitals is also adding to the existing problem. Recently the staff parking at Khoula Hospital lot has been taken up for the construction of a new multi-speciality facility. At Royal Hospital also, the newly built cardiac centre consumed the staff parking area, leaving them with no other option than to use the general parking space.

At the Khoula Hospital, the situation is further aggravated with the main and only parking exit opening directly onto a traffic signal, blocking vehicle movement at fixed intervals, leading to long queues of waiting cars. Also, the exit of the main parking area of the hospital is bottle necked, which further leads to congestion.

The situation is even worse with private hospitals, which mostly have little or no parking lots.

Vertical Solution
The hospitals have been trying to counter the situation by expanding the parking areas. At Khoula Hospital, the parking facilities were recently increased to 136 slots for staff and 530 for public in the new car park in front of the new A&E block and near the entrance to the hospital. The Royal Hospital has a capacity now of accommodating 1,000 cars, with new parking areas in the front and backside. Al Nahda Hospital also has expanded its front parking to more than 500 meters.

But the problem is still persistent. Explained Sultan Al Saadi, Deputy D.G. Administration & Finance, Khoula Hospital, "Whatever parking most hospitals have, it is not even sufficient for the staff, leave alone the public and patients coming there. During visiting time it gets even worse! We have a parking space for more than 700 cars, but our own staff is 2000 plus in numbers. Dedicated staff parking is there but numbered and only for the specialised and technical staff. The majority accesses the general parking area".

With the space crunch, however, horizontal expansion seemingly becoming impossible, vertical expansion might be the most viable solution to the problem, feels Sultan. "Ultimately we will have to go with multi-level parking, if we are lo

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