Families, doctors call hospital parking a 'tax on the sick'
The high cost of hospital parking has some angry patients, families and doctors calling on health authorities to scrap pay parking.
Anne Graham racked up $1,800 in hospital parking fees in the past year. She spent several weeks visiting her son Bruce, who was in hospital during the end stages of lymphoma, and then visiting her husband Don who was in hospital dying from bone cancer.
It was a double tragedy for Graham, made worse by the expensive hospital parking costs she was forced to pay.
"I don't see why we used to have free parking and then suddenly the parking companies come along. They make a deal with the hospital and you know, I just don't think its right," said Graham.
CTV News took Graham's case to hospital parking officials and they agreed to give her a partial refund of $688, based on the senior's parking rates she should have paid, but didn't know existed. Graham was happy about the rebate, but wanted to take things a step further.
"I think all parking at the hospitals should be free," she said.
Hospital officials say there's already a chronic shortage of parking, especially near emergency rooms and free parking would simply clog the lots with illicit parkers.
But the B.C. Medical Association says that’s an excuse and claims pay parking contravenes the Canada Health Act, which promises free access to medical care.
"We have suggested to them that they should not be charging the fees and if they’re using parking fees to generate funds to buy things that they should really be looking or other revenue streams," said Dr. William Cunningham, BCMA president.
In all, there are 16,500 parking hospital parking stalls in the Lower Mainland, generating about $19 million a year. A third of that revenue covers the cost of the pay parking service. The remaining $14 million goes back into the health care system.
“The net proceeds of pay parking go into equipment, go into patient care services, in addition to the standard Ministry of Health funding," said Geoff Roberts, parking services director for Lower Mainland hospitals.
Hospitals also offer a senior's rate, special daily, weekly and monthly rates, and more.
"In some cases, if there's a hardship involved, we either waive the parking fees or we would reduce the parking rates to the employee level, which is typically between 40 to 45 per cent less," said Roberts.
Roberts says you just need to ask and officials will assess the situation on a case by case basis, but he says he doesn’t think all hospital parking will ever be free.
Right now, Delta and Mission Memorial Hospital offer free parking, though taxpayers in Mission pay a levy on their taxes to make up for the shortfall.
A cancer patient in St. John's, Newfoundland took his fight against hospital parking fees to court. He claimed the fees violated the Canada Health Act, but his case was dismissed last February.