December 20, 1996

Pathfinder: Questions & Answers

Continuing this week in the Reporter, VUMC leadership answers questions submitted by faculty and staff following the recent meetings outlining the institution's strategic direction.

This week's questions were answered by Dr. Joseph C. Ross, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

Will there be any changes in the cost of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance plan?

Ross – Yes, The cost to faculty and staff for the BC/BS indemnity plan will continue to increase as more and more faculty and staff choose managed care plans.

Are there any plans for an elevated pedestrian walkway between Capers Garage and Medical Research Building II?

Ross – There are no plans now for an elevated walkway between the Capers Garage and MRB II. If, in the future, a building is placed on Lot 42, it will be possible to include an elevated walkway between that building, the Capers Garage and MRB II.

Can some consideration of cost of parking be examined? More visitors are aware that we have excessive costs compared with our competitors, who are now providing free parking. Long-term patients and patient families in general are quite concerned.

Ross – The parking operation at VUMC is far larger and more complicated than at any other large medical facility in this metropolitan area. We are also very different from others. We have a medical school, nursing school, a large number of students, nearly 1,000 full-time faculty members, more patient visits, more than twice as many hospital staff as any of the other hospitals and we also are on the campus of a large university. Parking cannot be managed here as it is at the community hospitals. The only way to be fair is to maintain a program of payment by all who use the service. At other hospitals, everyone works for the hospitals, and staff (much smaller numbers) are able to park in one area.

Parking at VUMC is self supporting. Our parking operation cost is about $5 million per year. Many years ago, the decision was made to have a totally separate parking budget which must basically be balanced each year. All revenues generated by parking fees are used for parking operations. About a year ago, we changed to a "no-charge" for outpatients and the first and last days of hospitalization for inpatients.

These charges – which would have been paid by patients – are billed to and paid by hospital funds to the parking account. The fees you (faculty, staff and students) pay for parking go into the parking account for providing and operating parking facilities. The parking fees for each group of parkers, combined, reflect the total cost of the parking program. The parking fees for faculty and staff are heavily discounted, compared to patients and visitors. Compared with other parking programs in Nashville that do not receive any subsidies (from a hospital, etc.), the rates in all of the garages are very favorable.

Long term patients have access to long-term parking at a very low cost. Eventually, we hope to provide some relief to patients' families who visit.

There is no plan to reduce the amount of parking (or fees) for staff. The new Capers Garage addition will increase the number of available parking spaces. We do not foresee a time when faculty, staff, students and visitors will not pay for parking at VUMC.

The current medical center parking policy is that all who use the parking facilities must pay a portion of the parking costs. The parking program at Vanderbilt serves a very large number of people involved or affiliated with parts of the medical center other than the hospital. The medical center does not burden the patients with the parking cost for visitors, faculty or staff. The parking fees for faculty and staff are heavily discounted compared to patients and visitors.

The open lot at the Oxford House (Lot 45) has two types of parking:

€ Short term, 30 minute parking spaces which are reserved for drop-off purposes seven days per week.

€ Reserved parking for those with "T-C" permits. These are reserved for those who pay for parking privileges around the clock.

Will holders of parking permits in lots 72 and 73 be forced to park in the garage? A lot of people continue to park on the streets, using the shuttle buses. Will they be "encouraged" to park in permit lots? When will Central Parking staff treat employees with respect?

Ross – Holders of parking permits in Lots 72, 73 and 74 will not be forced to park in the Capers Garage. We plan to maintain that as an individual choice as much as possible. As of now, however, the "shuttle lots" are almost full. There are no plans to close any of those lots. We hope to have enough spaces available to encourage those who park on the streets to park in the "shuttle lots" or garage.

Our Central Parking staff signed the Credo and are part of VUMC. We expect respectful actions by parking staff and their customers, too. Any incident should be reported to the Office of the Director of Parking and Traffic.

Why don't you build a large parking garage in the N lots and eliminate driving three-to-five blocks to drop people off across the three lots.

Ross – The "N" lot space is not designated as medical center space, but is on loan to VUMC. It is not zoned for permanent parking structures. Therefore, we cannot build garages there now nor do we see that happening in the future.

Can we explore ways to make Vanderbilt more easy to locate for people unfamiliar with the area? Also what about signs to identify the primary entrance to Medical Center North? Frequently patients and their families remark on how large we are and how difficult we are to find.

Ross – We are well aware of the difficulty many patients and visitors have in finding this medical center and locating specific areas within VUMC. Improving our directional signage requires almost constant attention. There are some limitations, however, on what we can do on city streets, expressways, and interstate exits. Those efforts will continue.

How can the parking garages be made more secure since there have been several cars stolen from the garages already this year?

Ross – The VUMC garages are very secure. There are always rumors but we have no record or any cars being stolen from our garages during the past two-to-three years. Security is always a concern and we will continue to make the garages even more secure. Recently, the VUH garage lighting has been markedly improved.

I'm glad to see the addition of the stop signs and cross walks on 22nd Avenue for patients and visitors. Surely VUMC values their employees enough to have these on Pierce Ave. for Capers Garage after the new garage addition is completed.

Ross – From Garland Avenue to Capers, 22nd Avenue is a Vanderbilt street, not a city street, so we can control signage, lights, crosswalks, etc. Pierce Avenue, however, is a city street. We are aware of the problem and the Office of Traffic and Parking has already contacted Metro Public Works about how to handle pedestrian traffic after the Capers Avenue Garage drive on 23rd Avenue is reopened. A proposal for various types of traffic control will be submitted to Metro shortly after the New Year.