New B.C. campaign calls for end to ‘exploitative’ hospital pay parking

Hospital parking fees are under fire again in B.C., with a new campaign underway that aims to have the fees scrapped across the province.

The initiative has launched the slick, new website, which it hopes will become the hub for all opposition to health-care parking.

“The internet is littered with the wreckage of failed petitions, abandoned Facebook groups, a softball CBC exposé, emotional pleas for change and general ranting about this scourge that has infested nearly all of our public hospitals,” reads the website.

“None of these efforts have made one bit of difference. It’s time for a new strategy.”

Organizer and former business owner Jon Buss said he’s been in touch with the mayors of Surrey and Coquitlam, both of whom have vocally opposed hospital pay parking, and is trying to organize a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix and the heads of local health authorities.

“There’s really no controversy, there’s no one supporting [pay parking]. Everyone seems to be on the same page,” he said.

“It’s just not fair. It’s not appropriate at the time when you’re at your weakest, your lowest, your sickest to be dealing with a company that sees you as a target for profit.”

In a statement, Dix acknowledged concerns around the cost of pay parking at hospitals and said he’s looking at ways to reduce the burden, including a pledge not to implement any new pay parking.

“Replacing pay parking will involve determining the resources to make things more fair while also maintaining health-care services,” Dix said.

The health minister added that people facing hardship in the meantime can apply to have fees waived on a hardship basis.

According to Buss, solving the revenue gap is not insurmountable.

“We have to find about $34 million for the entire province to supplant the current income from the province,” he said, characterizing it as a “pittance” in the health ministry’s multi-billion-dollar budget.

“The two groups that are going to make it happen are the provincial government and health authorities. They have developed a stalemate; they blame each other,” Buss added.

“My approach has been let’s bring the people to the table, make a deal.”

Buss suggested bringing municipal governments into the equation, raising parking rates elsewhere in cities or implementing by-donation pay parking.

In the meantime, he’s urging residents to contact their MLAs and health authorities to call for change.

Late last year, Surrey city council eliminated pay parking on the streets around Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Last year, Quebec also made changes, offering a 30-minute, free grace period and slashing fees for daily, weekly and monthly permits. It also reduced rates for the elderly, frequent visitors and people with low incomes.

In 2016, Ontario also made changes to its parking fee structure, offering a 50 per cent discount to frequent hospital visitors.

The City of Delta banned pay parking at its hospital in 2010.

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