Christin Sweline has been visiting her granddaughter at Victoria General Hospital every day for the past month but starting Friday those visits are going to get more expensive now that pay parking is back.
“Parking and gas and food in the hospital and everything adds up,” Sweline said.
Not to mention the extra time and stress she says it can create. Friday morning Sweline had to return to her car three times because the machine kept telling her the license plate number was wrong even though she confirmed it wasn’t.
“[It’s] really hard for seniors to understand and pretty frustrating when you’re already frustrated coming to a hospital.”
Pay parking at hospitals across the province was cancelled in April 2020 due to the pandemic.
But in January, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced it would be coming back March 4, because the free parking was making it “hard for patients, staff, volunteers and visitors to find a spot, as non-hospital users were taking advantage of the situation to park for free,” he said in a press release on January 20.
Those who work in healthcare say it did become a problem, mostly in more urban areas but they believe the province can find a better solution than paid parking for most patients, visitors and staff.
“It would be nice to find a way to get healthcare workers to and from work in a manner that doesn’t require them to pay the added expense,” said Michael Sandler, CEO of the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC.
In a statement, the BC Nurses’ Union said “we are very disappointed that once again, nurses in BC are having to pay for parking while at work, despite how desperately they are needed to sustain our health care system. The government must do all it can now to support our nurses which includes maintaining free parking to help take care of the vital nursing workforce in our province.”
The province also says it lost $78 million in parking revenues over the past two years but one advocacy group says that’s no excuse.
“Although we all have respect for $34 million bucks, it’s not going to break the system, that amount of money will not run B.C. healthcare for 24 hours, it falls short at about 17 hours I think if you do the math, it’s a very small amount of money in context,” said Jon Buss, lead volunteer with hospitalpayparking.ca.
“Universal healthcare means universal access, universal access means no paid barriers so in fact it is a paid barrier, it’s a barrier to accessing healthcare unless you pay a fee and if you don’t pay the fee you get a so-called ticket.”
The group has written a letter to the premier and health minister asking for a meeting to discuss the issue further and come up with new solutions.
In a statement Friday, the Ministry of Health said “we’ll continue to work with our partners, including health authorities, to ensure parking remains available for those who need it most. We also now have modernized pay-parking stations that support touch-free payment solutions.”