Pay parking at hospitals under fire

Fraser Health board chair says get used to paying to park

A pay parking lot on the side of Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Fraser Health is defending its policy of charging for pay parking at most of the region’s hospitals to generate additional revenue.

The policy – long denounced by hospital users as a heartless cash grab – came under fire again at a Jan. 29 meeting of Fraser’s board of directors in White Rock.

Langley Township resident Harold Nagy demanded to know why Delta and Mission don’t have “this B.S. about pay parking” while patients and visitors must pay at other hospitals.

Delta and Mission are the only two municipalities that have bylaws that prohibit pay parking at hospitals.

“They should all be free,” Nagy said, adding the charges make some patients worry they’ll run out of time and be fined. “It’s a place of necessity when you go there. It’s not like going out for supper.”

About a third of the $8 million Fraser earns from pay parking goes to maintain the lots and the rest goes into the authority’s budget for patient care.

“Personally, I wish it could be consistent,” Fraser Health board chair Karen Matty told Black Press. “But we do not write bylaws in the various communities.”

The Canadian Medical Association Journal once likened pay parking to an unfair user fee that can add stress for patients and disrupt their care if they have to go out and feed a meter.

Fraser provides free parking passes for renal dialysis patients and grants other financial hardship parking permits on a case-by-case basis.

For everyone else, Matty predicts hospital pay parking is here to stay.

“Having to pay for parking is something that people need to get their head around,” she said.

“I don’t want to pay for parking. But parking seems to be becoming a premium here in B.C., especially the Lower Mainland. And I think we are all getting used to that fact.”

Part of the rationale for pay parking is it spurs stall rotation, so some spaces are available when patients and visitors need them and aren’t hogged all day by users from surrounding businesses.

Parking costs $3.50 an hour at most hospitals in the Fraser region, although that starts at $4.25 at Burnaby, Royal Columbian and Surrey Memorial hospitals, while hourly rates are lower in the eastern Fraser Valley – $2.50 in Abbotsford, $1.75 in Chilliwack and free in Hope.

Link: Parking rates by hospital

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said he can’t recall his council ever being asked to outlaw pay parking at Peace Arch Hospital.

But he suggested Delta Hospital is a special case because of its location with an abundance of other free parking nearby.

“Different situations call for different tactics,” Baldwin said. “If (Delta) put in pay parking probably people would simply park along the roads up to it or around city hall. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Baldwin also noted some pay parking lots at Peace Arch Hospital are actually owned and operated by the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, with all proceeds going directly to local hospital improvements, not into Fraser’s budget.