A doctor putting her health on the line every day treating coronavirus patients has blasted ‘perverse’ parking wardens for slapping her with a fine while she was saving lives.
Dr Katarina Arandjelovic, an anaesthetics registrar at Royal Melbourne Hospital’s intensive care unit, called out the City of Melbourne council and Lord Mayor Sally Capp for targeting essential workers during the pandemic.
After working 56 hours over four days and taking care of ‘some of the state’s sickest patients’, Dr Arandjelovic finished her gruelling shift at 10pm on Monday to find a $99 fine on her windshield.
‘It is not easy, but every single person in that building is working their butt off right now. It is inspiring. We make sacrifices and turn up – day in, day out, to serve you,’ she said.
‘So I guess City of Melbourne and Sally Capp, slapping fines on our cars is one hell of a thank you.’
The doctor said healthcare workers have been told to avoid public transport to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
That means most have to drive to work – and often it’s a struggle to find a parking space within hospital grounds.
‘The day before lockdown, my bike was stolen from outside this hospital,’ she said.
‘In lockdown, who do you think is parking in the streets by the hospital? It is the doctors, nurses, orderlies, pharmacists, physios, technicians, cleaners, cooks, ward clerks.
‘So when you send a parking inspector to Parkville, know that it is these people you are targeting.’
Dr Arandjelovic issued an emotional plea to parking inspectors to avoid from hospitals when handing out fines.
‘We cannot work from home. We come here, and we sweat it out under our gowns, our voices muffled under masks, learning to ‘smile with our eyes’,’ she said.
‘We wash our hands obsessively, hoping desperately we do not become part of That Statistic. We do not see our families for weeks.’
An outraged Twitter user jumped to Dr Arandjelovic’s defence, and even offered to foot the bill for her fine.
‘Hi Katarina, I was sorry to see this thread. I can’t speak for the City of Melbourne and their policies. However, if you will allow it, I’ll happily pay the fine on your behalf,’ the man wrote.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was on Tuesday grilled about parking inspectors handing out fines to healthcare workers.
‘I don’t think someone who is in there literally saving lives, at considerable risk to themselves, should be the subject of a parking ticket,’ he told reporters at a press conference.
‘Let me follow up on that matter.’
The City of Melbourne told Daily Mail Australia that from this Friday, it will provide up to 5000 additional temporary parking permits to frontline workers responding to COVID-19.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the new passes mean that up to 15,000 permits will have been issued to frontline workers in total.
‘Health workers are doing an amazing job at this difficult time. We understand they are playing a critical role saving the lives of many Victorians who have been diagnosed with COVID-19,’ the Lord Mayor said.
‘We are printing thousands more green dashboard stickers to support frontline staff responding to the pandemic.
‘If you believe you got a ticket when you shouldn’t have please get in touch with the City of Melbourne and we will follow up.
We also recognise the impact this is having on some residents, who are experiencing a higher volume of cars parking in the streets making it difficult for them to find a park.’
The extra permits will be made available to hospitals based in the City of Melbourne, Victoria Police, and medical staff working in other COVID-19 related areas.
Hospitals rake in tens of millions of dollars a year from their car parks. At some of Melbourne’s biggest hospitals fees jumped 25 per cent in three years.
Staff are often given discounted rates but at $99 a fortnight at Royal Melbourne Hospital the fees add up over the year.
Parking inspectors are still out in force across the Melbourne CBD issuing fines despite Stage 4 restrictions banning all non-essential work.
Medical workers across Victoria have called for hospital parking to be free so they can avoid the risk of catching coronavirus on public transport.
Many more are driving to work than ever before as they fear taking public transport could expose them, and patients, to the deadly virus.
Melbourne nurse Paige Wilson has started a petition to Premier Daniel Andrews to make parking for medical workers free across the state.
‘Myself and my colleagues are gravely concerned about traveling on public transport whilst community transmission is so high,’ she said.
‘Particularly in Melbourne, a lot of car parks are closing and my colleagues and I are wondering where we can park from now on without it costing a fortune.’
Victoria recorded 321 new coronavirus cases and 19 deaths on Tuesday.