Minister’s response to pay parking ‘unacceptable’: director

The province has confirmed it supports pay parking at the new Campbell River Hospital and that’s not sitting well with the Strathcona Regional District.

Health Minister Terry Lake wrote in a recent letter that the province supports parking fees at new hospitals in Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Area C Director Jim Abram said he was dissapointed.

“I find this letter to be totally unacceptable from the (health) ministry,” Abram said upon receiving the letter at Wednesday’s regional district board meeting.

He said what’s particularly concerning is the fact that the new hospitals serve patients living in an area that may require some people to pay to travel several hundred kilometres, or take multiple ferries, for health care.

“The people that can least afford this – and it’s going to cause the greatest inconvenience to – are being asked to just suck it up and do it,” Abram said.

Lake, in his letter, said that “from time to time, difficult decisions must be made.”

He added that pay parking allows hospitals to focus their financial resources on patient care and any surpluses from parking revenues are used to improve health care resources.

“Because Campbell River Hospital has been a non-paying site to date, maintenance and other 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 wrote. Island Health served notice last fall that it intends to implement parking fees at both new hospitals.

Tom Sparrow, Island Health’s chief project officer, told city council in October that  funding generated through pay parking will go towards maintenance and security of Island Health’s facilities as well as supporting the health authority’s operating budgets.While Island Health has yet to announce what the rates will be, fees will be determined based on parking rates at St. Joseph’s in the Comox Valley and at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

To put that into perspective, at St. Joseph’s, it costs $1.50 to park for one hour, $2.25 for two hours, $7 for the day and $25 for a week long permit. In Nanaimo, parking rates are $2.25 for two hours and then $1.25 for each hour beyond that.

Opposition from MLA Claire Trevena, the regional hospital board, and members of the community’s Citizens for Quality Healthcare have not swayed Island Health.

At Wednesday’s regional district board meeting, directors decided to take it one step further.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh put forward a motion, which was passed by the board, to take the issue to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC).

According to Island Health, pay parking will apply to all hospital staff, physicians, patients, visitors, students, contractors and service providers. Exempt from pay parking are: hospital volunteers, hospital auxiliary members, spiritual/pastoral care providers, renal patients or family caregivers.