An advocacy group says the thousands of outstanding parking tickets from Vancouver Island hospitals shows the practice “is a sham”.
Jon Buss from the group Hospital Pay Parking says documents obtained through a freedom of information request show out of the 13,105 tickets issued from April 2018 to March 2019 at Island Health facilities, only 4,660 were paid.
Out of all those outstanding tickets, 13 cars were towed. Island Health says those belong to staff who each had between 13 and 35 unpaid parking infractions.
“Well it’s a sham, I mean people should ask themselves, when they go to a hospital, why will they pay for parking,” said Jon Buss from the group.
“And this whole idea is predicated on threats, towings and financial penalties. It does contribute to our health care program but it’s a pittance, when you consider we got about 36 million dollars as take annually from pay parking proceeds, but that runs health care in B.C. for about 25 hours considering its a twelve and a half billion dollar operation annually.”
Nanaimo Regional Hospital has the highest amount of tickets, with 3838. Next is Royal Jubilee with 3612 followed by Victoria General with 3590..
The group says the practice adds to stress that many are already experiencing while there.
They suggest that the long-term solution could be a free parking pass program for patients and those supporting them. But for now they say two hour free parking would be a start.
The British Columbia Nurses Union says that staff often struggle to pay for parking while on the job.
“Often they are asked to work longer than their planned 12 hours, and in order to leave their patients or shift to plug a parking meter or pay for more parking can be problematic,” said BCNU president Christine Sorensen.
Penny Hodson is no stranger to plugging the meter at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. She is a cancer survivor, and volunteers at the ward. She has also been visiting her daughter in law’s premature baby in the Neonatal intensive Care Unit.
“Your not thinking about “oh my god, I’ve got this amount of time” your thinking “oh my god my grandson”,” she said.
“[paying does] add up if you come often, and I’m a pensioner… It should be free for everybody, because it’s hard enough.”
Island health sent a statement saying towing vehicles “would only be done in extreme circumstances, for example their vehicle blocking an emergency access.”
They also say there are mechanisms in place to help those with outstanding fees, such and payment programs and cancellations.
They added that they use parking fees to help cover the cost of maintenance , lighting, and security in its parking lots, along with snow removal.