Claire Trevena North Island MLA

Trevena continues to question paid parking at new hospital

North Island MLA Claire Trevena continues to draw provincial Health Minister Terry Lake’s attention to her constituents’ concerns about the plan to charge for parking at the new Campbell River hospital.

Trevena says she has again written to the minister of health to call for a rethink on plans for paid parking at the new Campbell River hospital.

She questions the rationale she has received about charging for hospital parking, which appear to be simply because it is done at other hospitals, according to a press release. Trevena pointed out that elected officials from around the North Island have asked the minister and Island Health to allow free parking at the hospital.

“Their concerns are that in addition to dealing with the worry of a hospital visit, their citizens are already dealing with multiple-hour car and/or ferry journeys, at times in adverse weather,” she said in the release. “There is a serious worry about people’s ability to pay, the stress that will impose on families and the burden on hospital staff. A hospital is an important community resource; it should serve the community fully. Clearly this is not happening as can be evinced by the communities’ vociferous opposition to paid parking.”

As well, with free parking in most of Campbell River, charging at the hospital would be an anomaly, she said.

Trevena has also raised the question brought to her by the health care campaign group in the North Island that charging for parking would effectively be a barrier to health care and therefore contravene the Health Act.

Island Health announced last year that it intends to charge for parking at all new facilities with “substantial parking infrastructure.” This includes the new Campbell River and Comox Valley hospitals, which are expected to be completed in 2017. Fees will be determined by Island Health Parking Services based on parking rates at St. Joseph’s General Hospital and Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

In B.C., health authorities (like Island Health) are responsible for setting parking rates at their facilities, says Laura Heinze, media relations manager for the B.C. Ministry of Health.

“Pay parking provides capital for maintaining, improving and expanding parking facilities that would otherwise be taken from the healthcare budget,” she said. “Parking revenues pay for services such as snow removal and de-icing, lighting costs, security and pothole repairs. When parking is free, these costs must all come out of funding that would otherwise have gone to front-line care.”

Heinze says that at the new hospital, all hospital staff, physicians, patients, visitors, students, contractors and service providers will be required to pay for parking. Hospital auxiliary members, volunteers, pastoral care members, family caregivers and renal patients will not need to pay for parking.

“In addition, all health authorities — including Island Health — have provisions in place to waive fees where they will pose a genuine financial hardship to families,” said Heinze. “Parking rates will be reviewed regularly to ensure they are comparable and aligned with the costs of maintaining parking.”