Cancer patient fights 'unfair' hospital parking fees
Published Thursday, January 10, 2013 7:37PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2013 9:36PM PST
A Langley senior is questioning the legitimacy of paid parking at hospitals, joining a growing movement against costly fees for patients.
Cancer patient Irene Harris says she pays more than $100 each month to park at Langley Memorial Hospital.
“There is no choice. I either do it, or I die,” said Harris, who receives essential treatments four times a week for four hours per hospital visit. “I feel like nobody gives a damn and they just want to get money every possible way they can.”
The Canadian Medical Association has said paying for parking contravenes the Canada Health Act, whose objective is to “facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
Large parking fees should be considered a financial barrier for those with low income, according to Harris.
“So many times I have to choose whether I pay for medicine or food, or a parking lot or food,” she said.
B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said it was doubtful anything would change and that it would be difficult for health care authorities to absorb parking costs.
“I personally would find it hard to think that parking is part of health care, that covering parking costs would be part of what our health care budget should go toward,” she said.
One-third of revenue collected from hospital parking lots covers the cost of providing parking service, said Fraser Health Authority spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward.
“The paving of the lots, the lighting, snow removal…If we didn’t charge, that money would have to come from general revenue,” he said.
The remaining revenue goes to the authority and funds a number of purchases and programs including facility costs, upgrades, equipment and patient care programs.
Thorpe-Dorward added that charging market value for parking ensures stall rotation, and a lower fee may attract non-hospital parkers.
If paying for parking presents financial hardship to a patient they can request a reduction in rates, special long-term rates, or for the fee to be waived altogether on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Harris said she incorrectly received fines last November for not paying for parking, but Fraser Health has since promised it will cancel the tickets.
Across the country in Newfoundland, some people are simply refusing to pay for hospital parking. St. John’s resident Tom Badcock has even launched a lawsuit against Eastern Health, arguing no patient should have to pay to see their doctor.
In Scotland, car parking charges at 14 hospitals were scrapped on Dec. 31 after government determined that the fees were unfair.
With files from CTV British Columbia's St. John Alexander