Parking lot was cramped even before the construction. JDWNRH muti-storey parking idea not approved
The lower parking lot in the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Thimphu is closed temporarily to public. The parking lot is being converted into a five-facility area to provide gym, mortuary, staff canteen, staff changing rooms and lockers for hospital attendants. More than half the parking lot going up to 70 percent will be used in the construction of the new facilities.
The construction, which started a week ago, has caused much parking woes among the hospital visitors and patients. Gathering from the collective views by the people visiting JDWNRH, the construction has considerably added to the traffic congestion.
A parking fee collector in the area, Bhakti Maya, 32, said car parking used to be cramped even when the parking lot was open before the construction. It has now been made worse with the closure of the parking lot.
“When the lower parking space was open, I used to collect around Nu 7,000 per day. Now after the closing, I collect around Nu 3,000.” She further added, “I feel this is difficult for the patients as I see so many sick patients walking including those on crutches.”
A taxi driver, Singye Dorji, who had managed to drop his pregnant wife for a checkup in JDWNRH was shortly called, over the mobile phone, to pick up his wife as she was suffering from a severe headache. But he could not drive as a private vehicle was blocking the road. He waited for more than half an hour but still the driver did not show up.
“Nowhere in the world is there an abundance of land. I don’t blame them for wanting more facilities, but they should make up for that want by providing an alternative such as making an underground parking,” a 57-year- old civil servant said. He also pointed out that the plan for building the staff facilty is a short sighted one because eventually the facility will have to make way for parking as parking will become a bigger problem as time goes by.
Sonam Wangmo who is a civil servant suggested, “It is better to make a guest house for those poor people who come from far villages for treatment and do not have any other place to stay.”
Sonam Dechen, 42, said, “It’s going to create a big problem as it is very hard to find parking already. For us, it is okay as we can walk, but it will be very difficult for some patients to walk so far. Some patients need help to walk and the driver has to go find the parking.”
However, JDWNRH President, Lhab Dorji, said that the underground parking lot space is not used judiciously. “In the back of the parking area, people use it for urination and waste disposal, misusing almost 70 percent of the parking area.” He further added, “This not an ad-hoc idea. We have planned and looked at this for over a period of three years.”
He claimed parking space for around 70 vehicles will be lost only. The hospital says it is facing space constraint to build the facilities it requires.
“These facilities need to be put in because as the hospital grows, the services need to grow, demands grow and our hospital needs to improve. And as we put in more infrastructure in the hospital, parking space is going to become less, it’s not going to become more,” the JDWNRH President said.
He said the parking space is primarily for emergency purposes and for the hospital staff. “Bottom line, to be blunt, the hospital’s business is to provide health care, medical care and treatment after the patients are brought in the hospital.” He said it is impossible for the hospital to create 100 percent parking space for every visitor in the hospital since there is no space. “Now the culture of picking up and dropping the patient has to take place.”
“Previously vehicles were barred from entering the front side of the new hospital building, it was allowed after 2016, with the idea to let the vehicle exit the gate and park outside,” he added.
According to the hospital president, the entire space will be used up after the construction which is expected to complete within the duration of 6 to 8 months. In the meantime, the hospital will open the front side of the parking lot for around 20 to 30 cars as the construction will be starting from backside of the lot.
The only solution that the hospital sees to lessen the parking crunch is to build a multi-storied parking lot. However, the proposal for such a multi-storied parking has not been approved. Lhab Dorji said that the people also need to develop the habit of parking their vehicles properly as people even park at the entrance of the hospital.
He added that the construction of a mortuary and other facilities has become a necessity. “It is required because the hospital sees three to four cases of deaths. We can’t keep the dead body among other patients for very long.” He clarified that the mortuary will also have an altar room where religious rituals can be performed for the dead.
“Other one is that there is a standing cabinet order that every hospital has to create an international mortuary. And for JDWNRH this is very much required because we have deaths of tourist and international visitors.” He further explained that when somebody from another country dies in the hospital then the hospital needs to hold on to the body for at least two weeks.
As for the locker room, the president said that the patients’ attendants keep their bags and belongings all over the windows in wards and cabins in a haphazard manner. “We need to remove those by giving them a space to lock those things up. So the other room will be the patient attendant locker room.”
In line with taking care of staff welfare, JDWNRH is building changing rooms for male and female staff, and a canteen for the staff as the hospital runs throughout the day and night. “The staff don’t get to cook inside the hospital, and even if they bring food, they are not allowed to eat at their station, although there is a small room where they dine.” He added that if subsidized food is provided in the staff canteen then the habit of bringing food in the hospital will stop.
The budget allotted for the construction of the mortuary and staff facilities is Nu 8.6 million.