Lois Jarvis and the Campbell River Citizens for Quality Healthcare are hoping to be the proverbial squeaky wheel who gets the grease when it comes to the issue of pay parking at the new hospital.
The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board – made up of directors from the Comox Valley and Strathcona Regional Districts – recently announced they would consider a tax requisition from the people who will be served by the new hospitals in the region to keep parking free at the facilities.
Jarvis says she supports the board’s efforts to keep parking free – which she and her group have been fighting since it was first announced pay parking may be implemented – but people are already taxed enough to support a proper healthcare system. The real problem, Jarvis says, is that the government has decided not to fund healthcare properly and then forces the public to compensate for that decision.
“No one likes more taxes, as we are already being taxed to death, and a user fee is just another tax,” Jarvis says. “There are some people who would prefer [a flat, regional tax] to a daily hospital parking user fee filling the coffers of a private, for-profit parking company at the expense of the sick, elderly, poor visitors, parents of sick kids, employees and the out of town people who already have to pay for gas, meals, accommodation, ferries, etc.”
But she says if a regional tax were implemented, it would need to be a very small one – only enough to cover what they would expect from parking fees, “excluding the payment to any parking company or profits.”
In order for her and her group to support a regional tax, it would also need to remain static and not increased “to be used as a cash cow for other things,” or enable the health authority or government to cut expenses in other areas, which she can see happening down the road should it be implemented.
She also thinks that implementing pay parking could be considered to be in contravention of the Canada Health Act, which states there cannot be an extra charge to access healthcare.
“Our Campbell River mayor and council, MLA Claire Trevena, the Strathcona Regional District, Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, Citizens for Quality Health Care, Council of Canadians and many others have written hundreds of letters and have worked at seeking a solution in lieu of hospital pay parking,” she says. “Pretty much all the North Island mayors have written to the Ministry of Health opposing hospital pay parking as it will be a hardship for most people,” but that has obviously not been enough.
What’s certain is that the issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
“If anyone has other ideas we welcome them. We do not plan to give up on this important issue,” she says, adding they will again be approaching the hospital board with another letter full of recommendations and opinions on the prospect of paid parking, including methods that other jurisdictions are using to avoid it altogether or mitigate its impact on the public.
“Prince Edward Island has eliminated pay parking and Ontario is looking at making it much more affordable. There was a furor recently in the UK with big headlines about companies making huge amounts of money for hospital parking at the expense of the sick,” she says, and she still thinks the city itself should be implementing a bylaw to prohibit it, as the city of Delta has done.
If all else fails, she says, at least John Horgan recently said that if the NDP forms the next provincial government, there will be no hospital parking fees where there have been none charged previously, so they still have that chance should nothing else work to convince the current government, she says.