No need to “circle like a shark”: How valet parking at the Victoria General reduces stress and helps get patients to their appointments on time

Look for Indigo Park attendants in bright blue jackets.

Valet parking conjures up images of five-star hotels, ballgowns, and VIPs in flashy sports cars.  But many patients in Halifax are finding out this service is not just for the rich and famous. 

Partners for Care in partnership with Indigo Park is now offering valet parking at the Victoria General (VG) site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.  It’s a relief for anyone who has ever franticly circled the lot looking for parking while the clock ticks down on their appointment time.

“Constantly we’d have patients come into the parking lot circling around like a shark, to find a spot and if they couldn’t find a spot, they would be forced to park off site. When that happens, they might be late or worse miss their appointment altogether,” said Jane Davies, executive director of Partners for Care.  “So ultimately the decision was made to do something different, outside the normal to address this issue. “

Indigo Park, the parking operations partner for the QEII, launched valet parking at the VG site during COVID-19 lockdowns.  Patients hand over their keys to attendants who double or triple park their vehicles in a designated area of the lot.  When they return from appointments, the attendants get the patient’s vehicle.  It creates up to 150 additional parking spaces over the course of a day. 

Victoria General parking lot

Julian Morrow, Halifax area manager for Indigo Park, says it’s been a huge success.  “We know parking in a hospital environment is very different than parking at a mall or an airport because folks who are coming in here already have a high level of stress.  With the introduction of valet parking, we have come from, ‘Oh no, I’m going to be late for my appointment’, to ‘Look, someone is going to guide me to a spot’. “

There are no additional fees to use valet parking, and it’s cost neutral because additional revenue from the increased parking capacity pays for the service. All proceeds from parking are reinvested in patient care.  “There is nothing you can really do about the parking lot design, so we had to work with what we had to increase parking capacity. We found a simple solution to get people in and out of their appointments and reduce that stress. It’s huge for patients,” said Morrow.

The service has been a hit, according to comments from patients gathered on feedback surveys:

Victoria General valet signage

“Thanks for being so nice. I was rushing to get my mom to an appointment.”

“Given this service is for when the lot is full, it is way better than having to find parking elsewhere.”

          “This is a wonderful idea that the hospital is doing, and I have never had valet parking before and I was very pleased to see the wonderful people help out for parking when the lot is full.”

Besides lifting stress from patients, Davies says valet parking is also supporting better access to care and creating potential savings.  “The other impact it has on the system as a whole is less missed or late appointments, which creates internal efficiencies.”

Valet parking is activated when the VG lot is reaching capacity.  When the program began during COVID-19, valet parking operated an average of 2.5 days a week.  Now, as patient services return to more normal levels, the average is 4.1 days a week.  And experience has brought other changes.   As an example, Morrow said, “We provide umbrellas to give to people when they are waiting for cars in the rain.  There are always little things that we continually learn to improve the service.”

Patients can find valet parking by entering the VG parking lot off South Park Street.  Look for the parking kiosk and for attendants wearing bright blue Indigo jackets.