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Updated: Thu, 28 Mar 2013 22:30:31 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Hospital parking costs hurting Canadians

Hospital parking costs hurting Canadians

Rising hospital parking rates amount to a tax on ailing Canadians, says one medical specialist.

A CBC Marketplace report found many Canadians are missing hospital appointments and experiencing added stress due to the costs of parking at their local health centre.

“Parking fees are a penalty for having a disease,” says cancer specialist Dr. Bob Winston. “It seems like an unfair tax on my patients.”

An online petition by the Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer, which calls for reduced parental parking rates at the Hospital for Sick Children, currently has 998 signatures.

In response, Garner says “the hospital tries to do everything it can do in a responsible and balanced way to support families and particularly those families who are in need.”

He added that hospital representatives would be willing to meet the petitioning parents, “provided that it will be a constructive meeting.”

Privatization increasing prices

Many hospitals are turning to privatized parking, which can be a double-edged sword, McKenna says; it allows hospitals to concentrate on patient care, but it means someone else controls the parking.

“Unless you have it in your contract specifically about how it will be staffed, how it will be maintained, what the max parking fees are… you lose control of it. And I think that's what's happened in most hospitals in Ontario.”

McKenna concedes that hospitals need reliable revenue streams, but argues that it’s unfair to put the burden on already troubled families, and says hospitals should find another way to make money.

“I understand (charging for parking), but we have to take it a bit further than just talking about how much revenue we can get. We have to think about there's a cost to that, not only to the patient, but to the system overall.

“Decisions should be made about patients and patient care, and the quality of health services. Not about how much revenue we can make,” she added.

Stewart agrees.

I'm not saying I want free parking,” she said. “I'm saying we need to consider who we're trying to tap for this money.

“You can't keep putting more stressors on families, people who are already tapped or else you're going to see a bigger drain on the healthcare system (because) they've got all these other stressors including money, that's causing more health issues. It's kind of a vicious circle.”

Watch Marketplace's episode, Hospital Parking Pain, Friday at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador).

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