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Armagh dentist says parking charge return will see ‘chaos’ for patients amid radical practice changes

'Due to social distancing restrictions we are having to close our waiting rooms and ask patients to wait in their cars'

An Armagh dentist says plans to resume parking charges from Monday will create “chaos” for patients as new measures are introduced to ensure safety guidelines are met.

Mel Currie, of Currie and Gribben Dental Surgery at Mall East, says not enough thought has been given to how the move back will impact upon they and their patients.

The practice is also behind an open letter to Health Minister Robin Swann – signed by in the region of 300 dental professionals – demanding movement is made in relation to the proper re-opening of dental surgeries.

Practices have been busy preparing for the re-opening but, prior to being able to do that, the news which they did not want to hear – a resumption of parking charges – dropped.

Earlier today (Wednesday), Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon signalled that parking enforcement teams will be back on Northern Ireland’s streets from Monday.

Warning notices will begin to be issued from that date to give people time to prepare and make motorists aware. In the first instance, for seven days, enforcement officials will be issuing warnings.

And Minister Nicola Mallon confirmed that, from the following week, Monday, June 29, Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), on street parking charges and charging at park and ride sites will begin.

Mr Currie said the changes will apply to all dental practices – and possibly pharmacies, chiropractors, chiropodists and others to some extent.

He told Armagh I : “This is going to create chaos for dental surgeries amongst other businesses.

“Patient safety is paramount for us and as a result due to social distancing restrictions, we will be forced to close our waiting rooms and ask patients to wait in their cars.

“Many appointments will be in excess of one hour as we will try to get more treatment done for patients in one appointment to reduce the now significant costs of PPE.

“Many of our patients are elderly or less mobile than they once were and it is unreasonable to ask them to park a significant distance away and wait outside a locked door.

“The last thing we want is for our already long-suffering patients to leave our practice with a parking ticket.”

Mr Currie said there had been hopes last year that movement was on the way to help remedy the parking situation in the area.

That was pre-Covid-19 and the dental surgery says adapting to the changes required now means it is all the more essential.

Added Mr Currie: “I had emailed Roads Service last year to ask if they might extend parking to two hours and felt we might be making progress on that front.

“This would stop the all day parkers. And town centre trading may benefit from the coffee shops and restaurants offering a social experience.

“I’ve spoken to a few traders on this subject and they all seem to be in agreement.”

With nothing agreed yet, he is appealing for a commonsense approach and urgent action to find a positive and long-term solution in everyone’s interests – one which supports the public, as well as the professionals and service providers and businesses, as all prepare to adapt to a ‘new normality’ without any unnecessary barriers to their long-term recovery.

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