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Coquitlam Mayor says high parking costs at RCH like a 'tax' on sick people

Last Updated Dec 23, 2018 at 8:14 pm PST

(Courtesy Fraser Health)

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) — A Metro Vancouver mayor is speaking out about the cost of hospital parking.

After making recurring visits to Royal Columbian Hospital for an illness in the family, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says he was shocked at how much he had to pay to park his vehicle.

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He says its outrageous that it costs so much more to park at a hospital than the surrounding area.

“It really amounts, in a lot of ways, to a tax on people who are sick. We shouldn’t be trying to institute user fees for our hospitals, and that’s essentially what our parking fees are if they don’t reflect the parking costs in the neighbourhood.”

Stewart says paying for parking can take a major financial toll on anyone with a relative suffering from a serious ailment.

“For families that have longer-term illnesses, or perhaps lasts a week and you could be at the hospital for several days, parking can be incredibly expensive,” he says. “It can run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a family to deal with a serious illness.”

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The Coquitlam mayor is also questioning why it costs so much more to park in hospital lots than on surrounding city streets, adding that the hospital shouldn’t be the most expensive place in town to park.

“There’s no reason why the most expensive parking in a city should be at the hospital. That’s just wrong,” he says.

Fraser Health waives fees in some cases

Fraser Health responded to the mayor’s comments Sunday evening with a statement, saying they welcome the opportunity to work with those who bring forward these types of concerns:

We also appreciate that some people may struggle to pay for parking, especially when they are dealing with long term illnesses. For this reason, we have a hardship process to waive fees where it poses a genuine challenge to patients and families. Most sites have a variety of pay options to accommodate different types of patient visits, including daily, weekly and extended stay rates as well as subsidized rates for those with financial need.

As hospitals are often centrally located, their parking spaces are very sought after. Paid parking at hospitals discourages customers and employees of surrounding businesses from parking at our sites, so these stalls are available for patients and their families. Parking rates also encourage stall rotation to ensure patients have access to parking at all times.

In addition, parking vouchers or fee waivers are often made available through the relevant medical program for patients who must make frequent trips to hospitals and clinics, such as hemodialysis and chemotherapy patients.

Money generated from parking fees covers operating costs to provide safe parking, such as lighting, security patrols, and repaving.  Any additional funds are reinvested into health care programs and services.