Trust defends its pay phones and parking

HEALTH bosses have been accused of employing 'money making scams' and subsidising 'incompetent' staff by a prominent North Somerset councillor

HEALTH bosses have been accused of employing 'money making scams' and subsidising 'incompetent' staff by a prominent North Somerset councillor.Councillor Elfan Ap Rees says the provision of pay phones and the high car park charges at Weston General Hospital are unacceptable.The criticism comes after guidance was issued to local health trusts by the Department of Health, saying the ban on mobile phones in hospitals could be safely lifted. The ban had been put in place due to fears that mobile phones could affect sensitive hospital equipment.Councillor Ap Rees said: "Now the experts have said hospitals should allow the use of mobile phones, signs prohibiting their use at Weston General Hospital should be removed. Do they intend to hang on to the money making scam of making patients and visitors use pay phones?"The Government also criticised the charging of parking fees, something else the trust seems to be ignoring. Why should visitors subsidise security and how much income is the hospital making from this lucrative little earner?"The car park at the Grange Road site made £272,529 in 2004/5, £307,000 in 2005/6 and is expected make around £285,000 for 2006/7.Patients and visitors to the hospital who use the car park are not charged for the first 15 minutes, then £1.50 for up to an hour, £2.50 for one to two hours, £3.50 for two to three hours and £4 for over four hours or all day.A spokesman for Weston Area Health Trust said: "Weston is content that its prices are in line with those at neighbouring trusts and other local car parks. They have not been increased since April 2005 and exemptions are available for some patients and their carers."The trust reinvests the money it raises from car parking charges to help keep our patients, staff and visitors safe on site and to maintain a clean and pleasant environment. A security firm patrols the site and CCTV is also in operation. "Our mobile phone policy is that they may not be used in patient areas, wards, outpatient departments, or in safety critical areas, such as intensive care operating theatres."The restrictions apply to staff, patients and visitors to minimise the risk of interference with medical equipment, the breach of privacy or confidentiality and to address the nuisance and distraction effect to patients and staff."We are aware of the recent statement by the Department of Health regarding this issue and will be reviewing its policy shortly. However, it is very unlikely that our policy will change.Cllr Ap Rees added: "We all know the trust is in debt but taking it out on patients, visitors and phone users who would rather not be in the hospital in the first place, seems a particularly callous and uncaring answer.

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