By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong Council has withdrawn a parking fine for a St John ambulance transferring a Covid-positive patient from central Dandenong apartments.
Mohammed Alam, an “absolutely shocked” St John volunteer, had parked in a no-standing zone at the front entrance of Quest Apartments for about 15 minutes on 5 August.
At the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, Mr Alam was picking up a patient to transfer to a quarantine hotel in the CBD.
He says he chose the no-standing zone to limit how far the patient had to carry their own luggage and to limit the risk of infection.
More than two weeks later, Mr Alam was informed that St John received a $165 parking fine in the mail.
In a letter to the council, Mr Alam sought a review of the fine.
“I am absolutely shocked and disbelieving that during this pandemic a marked ambulance vehicle is fined by your city parking officers while we continue to offer our service for the humanity and to the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Mr Alam told the Star Journal that he was grateful that the council waived the fine.
He said it was the first time he’d known a St John ambulance copping a parking ticket – “and it’s probably the last time too”.
Normally, parking inspectors would probably seek out ambulance drivers first before issuing a ticket, he said.
However, he was told that inspectors were doing their job without leaving their own cars due to Covid-19 infection fears.
Councillor Peter Brown said he was “more than disappointed that one of our staff showed such a high degree of lack of judgement or consideration to a critical response unit”.
“This is truly embarrassing for Council.
“I was always of the understanding that marked critical response vehicles could park safely as required to assist in the performance of their duties.”
As it turns out, St John ambulances are not defined emergency vehicles under state road rules, says Greater Dandenong Council’s city planning, design and amenity director Jody Bosman.
“As part of their training all St John’s ambulance drivers are made aware of this.
“When contacted by Council, the driver did acknowledge that he knew it wasn’t an emergency vehicle per se and that the provisions available to emergency vehicle drivers didn’t apply to him in these circumstances.”
Mr Bosman said the parking inspector saw the ambulance unattended for a “period of time” in the ‘red zone’.
“The parking management officer saw no paramedic nor activity on the scene to indicate that there was a drop-off or pick-up in progress.
“It is important that everyone appreciates and understands the importance of maintaining a safe road environment and that our officers are similarly committed to the safety, health and wellbeing of the community.”
It’s the second recent case in which the council has reversed a parking fine for an essential worker during the pandemic lockdown.
A student nurse at Dandenong Hospital had incurred $660 of fines for parking in a nearby school zone, assuming the school was closed due to stage-4 restrictions.