City looks to ban pay parking at hospital

The city is looking into how it can prohibit pay parking at the new Campbell River Hospital once it opens.

The idea came from Coun. Larry Samson who put forward a motion that asks city staff to investigate how the city can stop Island Health from charging parking fees.

Coun. Michele Babchuk, at Monday’s council meeting, said she supports the move because it’s council’s responsibility to ensure it has done its duty to cater to its citizens.

“We’re hearing a lot from our community around the pay parking issue and I think it’s council’s place to challenge all the questions and at least uncover every stone,” Babchuk said.

Samson, at Monday’s council meeting, said directors on the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board (which is made up of both Comox Valley and Campbell River councillors) have also requested a similar report from its staff.

“I believe this report will also help in our deliberations,” Samson said. “I think there are a number of options. I heard today that there was a Supreme Court decision that involves the federal Health Act in the Maritimes.”

Samson also suggested that city staff look to the municipality of Delta which, in 2004, adopted a bylaw amendment that dictates that “parking spaces in connection with a hospital must be provided free of charge.”

While city council as a whole has up until now been relatively quiet on the issue of pay parking, the same can’t be said for the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital board or the Strathcona Regional District board which have both voiced strong opposition to pay parking at the new hospital.

Letters from provincial Health Minister Terry Lake in response to the regional district’s letters of concern, however, confirm the province’s stance that it supports Island Health’s decision to charge for parking.

“Pay parking revenues allow the health authority to pay for parking lot management, maintenance and security, rather than using other hospital funds that are better spent on direct patient care,” Lake wrote. “Because Campbell River Hospital has been a non-paying site to date, the costs associated with the parking facilities have been born out of general health authority funding, which can now be better directed toward patient care.”

Lake said Island Health will work with those facing financial hardships and that pay parking will be waived for hospital volunteers, hospital auxiliary members, pastoral care providers and renal patients.

Lake said parking fees are also regularly waived in emergency situations, such as when a patient who has driven to the emergency department is told they need to be admitted.

Campbell River’s new 95-bed, $274.5 million hospital has been under construction since last year and is expected to open in late 2017.