A federal employee union is raising concerns that the parking restrictions at the new in Bethesda is “unfairly harming” support personnel.
The American Federation of Government Employees says the military hospital’s prioritizing of parking for doctors and other licensed practitioners has placed an unfair burden on staff, including housekeepers, ambulance drivers, lab technicians, and food service, administrative and maintenance workers, according to a news release.
Many, according to the union, must report to work before public transit service is available.
“Everybody needs to be able to get to work. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do,” said Dwight Bowman, the union’s vice president for the 14th District — which represents affected employees in the Washington, D.C. area — in the statement.
With the addition of 2,500 staff members as a part of the federally mandated Base Realignment and Closure process, the military hospital has about one parking space for every four employees. The hospital has been encouraging employees to look at alternative methods of transportation, like Metro and carpooling.
Sandy Dean, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said that all staff members directly involved in health care — including doctors, nurses and other licensed individual providers — received parking placards, along with members of the hospital leadership team. A percentage of support staff also received placards, and individual departments determined how they should be used, Dean said.
Parking decisions were made with patient care in mind, Dean said.
“We are a hospital, and our mission is to provide quality health care. So we had to look at that and ensure our patient needs are being met,” Dean said.
Dean said hospital employees including doctors, nurses and support staff are key to achieving the hospital’s mission.
“Every staff member at Walter Reed Bethesda is an invaluable and essential member of the team. We can’t have one without the other,” Dean said.
AFGE said in the statement it was exploring ways to provide offsite parking for support staff, who would then be shuttled onto the base.
Union representatives weren’t immediately available to comment on the release Thursday. Patch will provide more information as it becomes available.