To avoid a long wait or a long walk, some Ellis Hospital staff members are taking parking spaces badly needed by outpatients at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital.
The problem has gotten so severe that Sunnyview has towed one car and set up a sign warning others to stop abusing the hospital’s free parking lot.
Construction on the Emergency Department at Ellis has forced many employees to park at off-campus locations, to which they were assigned by the hospital.
But some employees have instead slipped into the Sunnyview parking lot. From there they can walk into the building, which is conveniently connected to Ellis, and walk to their station.
The situation has left some patients with nowhere to park — a delicate situation with many outpatients visiting regularly for physical therapy. Many of those patients can’t walk far.
Sunnyview security is now tracking cars and leaving notes warning Ellis staffers that they could be towed. Hospital officials also have added a sign in the hallway that connects Ellis and Sunnyview, announcing that they will tow cars owned by Ellis staff and visitors.
Figuring out just who isn’t supposed to park at Sunnyview is a challenge. Security officers are logging unfamiliar license plates daily. Regular “visitors” who park for long periods of time are asked what business they had at Sunnyview.
Spokeswoman Angela Yu said Sunnyview officials don’t want to tow cars — but they must keep spaces available for their patients.
“Normally, our parking lots are routinely at or near capacity,” Yu said. “It’s just, like handicapped parking, we need the lot so those that are disabled can have access.”
The problem generally isn’t with Ellis visitors and patients. Ellis officials said they have cleared enough room in the parking garage to make sure no one is turned away during the three-year construction project.
Work on the new Emergency Department has blocked access to some other parking areas. But there’s plenty of room in the garage, spokesman Matt Van Pelt said.
“We have never run out of parking at any time since the start of construction,” he said after checking parking logs maintained by security.
Staffers are assigned to two locations in the garage to make sure everyone can find a place to park.
“You show up and we’ll make sure we help you,” Van Pelt said.
But making room in the garage meant moving out employees who used to have permission to park there.
“We have some off-site parking we use for employees,” Van Pelt said. “Some employees park in the parking garage. Many of them, their parking was rearranged to off-site parking. That opened a lot of spaces.”
But some employees don’t want to park off-site.
Residents near Ellis Hospital have long complained that workers lined their residential streets with cars rather than using the off-site lots. Now, with those spaces filled, some are turning to Sunnyview.
It’s a tempting spot — the free lot does not require a sticker and there are many spots available at every shift change as Sunnyview staffers leave. And it is closer to Ellis than any other lot, except for the Ellis garage.
Sunnyview has posted additional staff in its parking lot to handle the inflow of both Ellis employees and Sunnyview patients searching for a spot.
“We’ve actually hired additional staffers on our end and we have them at our lots to help patients with additional parking,” Yu said. “Both facilities are really doing what we can. Unfortunately, there may be some people who did not want to take advantage of staff parking and are choosing to park on Sunnyview’s campus.”
But, she added, the tows are rare.
“We’re trying to be good neighbors,” she said.