Pay parking parkade at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Hospital parking fees ‘stress’ patients

Officials reject call to scrap pay lots in Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal.



Lower Mainland hospitals collect $14 million a year in parking fees that critics say amount to an unfair user fee that can even harm patient care.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday called for hospital parking fees to be at least waived for all patients, if not abolished entirely.

“Parking fees are a barrier to health care and add avoidable stress to patients who have enough to deal with,” Dr. Rajendra Kale, the journal’s interim editor-in-chief, wrote in an editorial.

“They can and sometimes do interfere with a clinical consultation, reducing the quality of interaction and therefore of care.”

Patients who wait weeks for a consultation at a hospital may abruptly end it when they realize they must soon pay for more parking time, Kale said.

“This is parking-centred health care, which is not compatible with patient-centred health care.”

Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe said there are no plans to end pay parking.

About a third of the money that comes in from parking covers the cost of maintaining and running the lots, while the rest – nearly $10 million a year – goes into general revenue for the Lower Mainland health authorities.

“If we didn’t get those fees it would have to come out of other health care revenues,” Thorpe said.

The money involved is just two-tenths of one per cent of the combined $5 billion spent annually by the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities, and by the Provincial Health Services Association and Providence Health Care on services in the region.

Most of the parking revenue is generated by Fraser Health, which gets $8.4 million a year.

Patients who come to hospital repeatedly for services like hemodialysis or chemotherapy are offered greatly reduced rates or in some cases vouchers to waive parking fees, Thorpe said.

“We have a very flexible, compassionate approach to our parking system,” he said.

Health authorities don’t get the fines that are paid when hospital visitors stay too long and are ticketed, he said. That money goes to parking lot contractors.

But nobody should halt a consultation or other care prematurely over parking, he said, adding any fine resulting from that can be voided.

“When there are exceptional circumstances, appointments go long and someone gets a fine, call Parking Services – they will waive the violation ticket,” Thorpe said, adding Fraser gets about 30 requests a day.

(Phone 604-875-4832 in Vancouver Coastal or 604-930-5440 in Fraser Health to request a special waiver of parking fees; Phone 604-909-3933 to dispute parking tickets at Fraser Health facilities.)

Thorpe said rates are based on the local parking market, with the highest rate of $7.50 an hour charged at Vancouver General Hospital and rates as low as $1 charged at Chilliwack General.

Most Fraser Health hospitals charge $3 to $4 for the first hour of parking, and lower rates after that. B.C. Children’s Hospital charges $3.75 an hour.

The rates include a 21 per cent parking tax that goes to TransLink plus 12 per cent HST.

While public visitors pay full rate, staff at hospitals get pay parking discounts of 40 to 45 per cent.

“If we had free parking, I think we’d have a real difficult time with ensuring turnover of parking spaces and limiting the time people stay,” Thorpe said.

But patients and visitors do get free parking at both Delta and Mission hospitals, where municipal bylaws prohibit pay parking for hospitals.

Asked whether free parking has been a disaster at those sites, Thorpe said no, but noted they are smaller facilities.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said Fraser Health is “not happy” about Delta’s bylaw but predicts her council won’t bend to pressure to scrap it.

“They’ve spoken to us about it,” she said. “They say it’s all about money and they need the money. Well I have a difficult time with that.”

Jackson said pay parking at hospitals offends many people and said she thinks back to when her own infant daughter was once in Surrey Memorial Hospital for three months.

“Had I not been able to go there two or three times a day I don’t know what I would have done.”

Frequent visits by grandchildren and other loved ones can be critical encouragement for the elderly in hospital to try harder to get better, she added.

“I think it’s just another money grab from people who can ill afford it.”

The CMA Journal argued pay parking is a “surrogate user fee” contrary to the Canada Health Act and could be challenged in court.

Just Posted

Fraser-Cascade school district hosts by-election to fill void left by passing of Tom Hendrickson

Advance voting begins on July 17, with general voting on July 27

Okan brings Cuban rhythm to Harrison Festival of the Arts

The Cuban band from Toronto will be performing a concert and holding a workshop

Sts’ailes drum making coming to Harrison Festival

The workshop has been happening for years, bringing Indigenous teachings to the festival

Transparency, dialogue key to UBC Dairy’s open house

The annual Agassiz event invites the public to come learn about dairy farming and research around it

Chilliwack lagging real estate sales mirrors provincial trend

Forecast for 2019 is a drop from 2018 but a bounce back predicted for 2020

VIDEO: Agassiz remembers local officer at grave-marking ceremony

Montague White-Fraser had been buried in the Old Cemetery for 92 years without a headstone

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read