It’s a blessing and a curse. Repairs for Royal University Hospital’s (RUH) parkade are well underway, but the work is causing a maze of confusion for many arriving at Royal University Hospital.

“It’s frustrating for many parkers, both patient and family, along with our own staff and physicians,” acknowledges Nilesh Kavia, vice-president for Corporate and Financial Services. “But the good news is this will create a much improved parking situation in the near future.”

Parkade repairs have been underway at Royal University Hospital since last fall.

Parkade repairs have been underway at Royal University Hospital since late last year.

In early winter, $10 million worth of repairs began at RUH. This came after approval in late October by the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority (SRHA) to award the tender for the parkade repairs to Stuart Olson.

Portions within the 1984-built parkade structure had been closed as a precautionary measure in May 2013 due to early warning signs of structural issues. These issues were found following initial inspections related to site preparation for the construction of the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan (CHS).

“We have had over 300 stalls closed with temporary reinforcements put in place on levels 1, 2 and 3 to help reinforce the vertical structure. After looking at options for the parkade, we have decided to repair the structure and pay for this through a loan,” says Kavia. “Today, the work involves fixing steel cables, reinforcing concrete and replacing the surface membrane.”

But that is easier said than done.

Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, crews will be working through levels one to three in the parkade, closing off sections to remove the traffic coating, expose and repair the steel cables and reinforce the concrete.

“The contractor is first strengthening around the support columns and in the areas where we know today reinforcements are needed,” explains Dan DeForrest, Saskatoon Health Region’s project manager for the repair work. “Then, through a systematic process, the contractor will be examining key points in the structure by removing the concrete, checking cables and reinforcing and repairing where needed. It sounds somewhat simple, but it’s actually a complex process that will take time.”

After steel cables and reinforcement repairs are completed to one area, the concrete has to be put back in place and a top coating applied to protect the surface.

As this work, and unrelated maternal and children’s hospital work continues, Parking Services continues to run a shuttle in order to safely transport patients and families to the entrance of RUH. Green rotating lights have also been installed at stairwells to visually cue people on where to go to access other levels.

The parkade repairs will be paid through a loan, with small, incremental increases in staff and physician rates across the Region over time to finance all parkade repairs and to fund ongoing maintenance. Healthcare dollars cannot be used to cover parking expenses, including repairs and maintenance. This leaves only parking fees as an option to fund the work, at this point, there are no  plans for increasing patient and family parking rates.

“We know there is no easy solution to fix parking nor can we use public dollars to do this,” says Kavia. “But, we also know accessible parking is critical to our patients and families, given they are why we are here. We thank everyone for their patience and cooperation in getting this important service to our patients and families back to where it needs to be.”

It’s estimated to take two years to complete the repairs, but as contractors progress they will know more definitively when they can start to return stalls back to the public.

“We know it’s painful for everyone coming to the site. The ultimate goal is to release these stalls as soon as we are safely able to which will greatly improve the parking situation at RUH,” says Kavia.

More work is also being planned for other portions of the RUH parkade, as well as to the staff parkades at Saskatoon City Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. The current portion of the RUH parkade was prioritized because the work required was deemed the most necessary and affected the most stalls, including public parking.