To the editor:

While we appreciate Lois Collins' recent column of the sorry state of handicapped parking in Salt Lake City, we wish to clarify and respond to her comments about University Hospital.Handicapped patients are a high priority at University Hospital. We face a parking situation different from most public places - a large segment of our customers (i.e. patients and visitors) are handicapped, either temporarily or permanently.

We have reserved 29 parking stalls - and in the most convenient locations in our terrace - specifically for handicapped visitors. Our terrace is patrolled hourly to assure that this parking privilege is not abused. Violators are subject to $35 citations. Because of full-time parking officers, our handicapped parking enforcement likely exceeds most hospitals in the valley.

One factor Collins may not have known is that University Hospital issues its own handicapped permit, which goes on the dashboard, for patients who are temporarily handicapped. So while it may appear that many cars are illegally parked in handicapped stalls, most are there legitimately.

Additionally we have tried to promote handicapped access by encouraging handicapped passengers to be dropped off at the curbside of the main entrance and then allowing their able-bodied drivers to park in regular stalls. Our entrance also is equipped with ramped curbs, and we have two full-time visitor attendants to assist people in and out of their cars. Also, severely immobile patients can call ahead and arrange to be met at the patient unloading area.

While our system may not be perfect, we want Collins, your readers and our patients to know that we are concerned about the parking needs of the handicapped.

Carolyn Wiggins, R.N., chair

The University of Utah

Medical Center Parking Committee