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

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Police issue warning that 19-year-old poses ‘significant’ risk to the public

Varinderpal ‘VP’ Gill of Abbotsford involved in Lower Mainland gang conflict, police say

Semi in ditch on Highway 1 in Abbotsford

Westbound traffic backed up Wednesday morning

Langley driver at the B.C. Historic Motor Races in Mission

‘It’s a nice father-son thing’ Andrew Dobbie says

Chances Mission donates more than $1,700 to Food Centre

Donation also includes food for Mission Community Services’ program

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

2 girls, hand-drawn map in hand, sneak out of B.C. home for adventure

The pair’s escape has transit police reminding commuters to report unusual behaviour

Ex-B.C. teachers’ union leader among latest pipeline protesters to get jail time

Twelve people have been sentenced for violating court order to stay away from Kinder Morgan terminal

B.C. not prepared for a Humboldt Broncos bus crash, group says

An air ambulance advocacy group wants an overhaul of B.C.’s emergency medical system in rural regions

Liberals look at creating federal holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said day to recognize painful legacy would boost understanding

Mounties deployed to help B.C. communities affected by wildfires

RCMP officers heading to places particularly within central, northern and southern B.C.

Interim GoFundMe payments approved in Humboldt Broncos crash

$50,000 to be given to each of the 13 survivors and each family of the 16 people who died

B.C. gangster charged after man allegedly beaten with a golf club

Langley man facing aggravated assault charge after incident allegedly involved golf club and machete

Are you Canada’s next Masterchef?

Home cooks looking to follow their cuisine dreams can apply now.

Most Read