Time to end 'exploitative' hospital parking fees in B.C.: non-profit

Time to end 'exploitative' hospital parking fees in B.C.: non-profit

01.21.2019

Source: Vancouver Sun

The founder of a non-profit organization devoted to eradicating hospital parking fees says it’s time for B.C.’s health authorities to cut their addictions to parking revenue.

Jon Buss’s comments come after the Provincial Health Services Authority signed a contract that will pay Impark more than $14.5 million over five years to manage Fraser and Coastal Health hospital parking lots, and that will allow the private company to keep the violation revenue it collects. For Buss, paid hospital parking is an “exploitative money-making scheme” that creates stress and anxiety for health care patients and their supporters.

“This is a social service we all pay for. Why is it that we have to face this charge at our moment of need?” asked Buss, the founder of hospitalpayparking.ca.

Buss’s group posted the contract, dated June 2018, to its website after obtaining it through a freedom of information request.

Under the contract, Impark, a private corporation, will collect parking revenue, maintain parkades and equipment, provide collection services on and retain revenue from violation notices, among other things. The contract proposes further automation at some hospital parking lots, which Buss contends will boost violation revenue. The contract commenced Jan. 1, 2019 and runs until Dec. 31, 2023.

During the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018, Fraser Health received nearly $15 million in parking revenue and Coastal Health received about $5.5 million. For a sense of scale, the budget of each health authority is roughly $3.5 billion per year.

The Provincial Health Services Authority, which negotiated the contract with Impark on behalf of PHSA, Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health, said the consolidated effort between health authorities resulted in greater negotiating power with suppliers, ensuring a better deal for B.C.

Paid parking at hospitals is necessary to encourage stall rotation and prevent people with business unrelated to the hospital from using the stalls, said PHSA in a statement.

Money generated from fees cover parking-related operating costs such as snow clearing, lighting, security patrol and repaving. Any additional funds go to health care programs and services.

Health minister Adrian Dix said he has heard about complaints about pay parking at hospitals across B.C., and notes that pay parking revenue has increased dramatically over the past decade.

"Reducing this burden that has grown over the past several years is currently one of the issues I am looking at as Minister,” said Dix. “One action that we have taken is that pay parking is not being expanded to new sites.”

Most hospitals have a process to waive fees where it poses a genuine hardship for patients and families. Parking vouchers or fee waivers are usually available for some medical programs that require patients to visit the hospital frequently, such as patients on hemodialysis and chemotherapy, said the PHSA.

Requests for comment from Impark were not immediately returned.

For Buss, parking fees should be eliminated at B.C. hospitals, and he points to Scotland and Wales as having paved the way for other jurisdictions to wean themselves off hospital parking revenue. Closer to home, Mission and Campbell River are among the local governments that have enacted their own bylaws to prohibit paid parking at hospitals, as has Buss’s home municipality of Delta.

Buss would like to see management of hospital parking lots transferred from private hands to local governments and he is now pushing for the province, municipalities and health authorities to come together to find a new parking model.

His organization has put forward ideas to spur discussion by relevant decision makers, including a by-donation parking model, accompanied by signage to dissuade parking for non-hospital related business. Buss said he has already met with local mayors, but his efforts to meet with local health authorities and leaders at the ministry of health have been unsuccessful to date.

“Everybody wants this solved. It is unsupported, it is unacceptable to the public, and we just have to break this addiction. This is a stalemate of convenience.”

Buss encouraged B.C. residents to make their voices heard on the issue. A template letter to MLAs posted to his group’s website, hospitalpayparking.ca, asks recipients to press for a legislated end to hospital pay parking in this province.

“If we’re just quiet about this, these guys are happy,” Buss said.

“We need to get this outlawed. They did it successfully in Scotland and Wales and we can do it here. We can be a leader.”

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