Thursday July 3, 2014

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday July 3, 2014

Hamilton hospital parking will cost you up to $25 a day

Hospital parking is up to $25 a day after both Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare raised their rates.

“It’s a bit rich,” said cancer patient Lionel Morton, who travels from Welland to Hamilton for treatment between two and four days a month and already thought the fees were a “ripoff.”
“They know they have a captive audience,” he says. “It’s not right.”

The price jumped by up to 25 per cent at the acute care hospitals, which are struggling with deficits and aging parking structures.

“We understand that represents hardship for some of our patients and we’re sensitive to that,” said Heather Pullen, spokesperson for HHS. “It’s a decision we make very carefully and we try not to do very often. But the cost of every aspect of our business rises all the time. … It’s a difficult choice, but it’s one we feel we have to make.”

For most of the acute care hospitals, the daily maximum is now $20 after being $15 for the last five years. Premium parking off Charlton Avenue at St. Joseph’s Hospital and the emergency lot at McMaster Children’s Hospital is $25, up from $20. The prices changed June 16 at HHS and April 1 at St. Joseph’s.

The rate for 30 minutes or less remains the same at $3.50 for the acute care hospitals.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal urged hospitals in 2011 to scrap paid parking, calling them “a user fee in disguise.”

“Parking fees are a barrier to health care and add avoidable stress to patients who have enough to deal with,” stated the editorial by Dr. Rajendra Kale, the editor-in-chief at the time.
However, the Ontario Hospital Association rejected that call, saying hospitals rely on parking for at least one per cent of their revenue.

“Every year, St. Joe’s, like many hospitals, face the continued pressure of bridging a gap between our annual funding provided by the Ministry of Health and our operating pressures like increased hydro bills or medical supplies,” said spokesperson Megan Bieksa. “One of the ways we generate revenue is through parking.”

St. Joseph’s needs to make up about $12 million to balance its $600-million budget for the fiscal year that started April 1. HHS has to find $25 million to keep its $1.2-billion budget in the black. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)

Hospital, parking, public health, Rob MacIsaac, Hamilton, Ontario, hospitals, health