A Surrey MLA is taking aim at “frustrating” hospital parking fees in his city.
Surrey-Guildford NDP MLA Garry Begg says not only is it tough to find a parking spot at Surrey Memorial Hospital, being forced to plug a meter is adding unnecessary pain for patients and their families, particularly when dealing with an emergency.
Currently, it costs $16.25 to park for 24 hours at Surrey Memorial and $11.25 for the day. At the hourly rate, it costs $4.25 for the first hour and $3.50 thereafter. Begg said that there are some people in the community that have difficulty affording that.
“It’s a frustrating issue for many that they, if there’s an emergency, have to go to the hospital and then have to plug a meter to do that,” said Begg.
Begg added that he isn’t calling for fees to be scrapped entirely, acknowledging that there is a cost to building and maintaining parking infrastructure.
WATCH: Quebec slashes hospital parking fees
But he said after holding a telephone town hall with his constituents, he’s come to the conclusion that the current system, particularly with fees for those headed to the ER, needs to be tweaked.
“I’m not sure there should not be a pay system, I think there should perhaps be a system that regulates the use so that there is an accommodation for those people who, for emergency purposes, have to go to any hospital.”
Begg said he plans to raise the issue with Surrey Memorial’s board, and added that there could be a role for his government to play in terms of coming up with new ideas.
“It’s incumbent upon the hospital, and us, if there’s an effective solution that accommodates everyone’s needs to ensure that it gets done.”
Fraser Health spokesperson Jacqueline Blackwell said the health region’s parking policies are consistent with those across the province, and are designed to ensure there are spaces available for those who need them.
“We appreciate that some people may struggle for parking, especially when they’re dealing with long-term illnesses, and for this reason, we have a hardship process to waive fees where it poses a genuine challenge to patients and their families,” she said.
Global News has requested comment from Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health on the issue.
Surrey is not the first community to express concerns about the cost of hospital parking.
Last year, Quebec 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.
Last year, Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read raised concerns about the $8.25 per day parking rate at Ridge Meadows Hospital, which she argued was penalizing seniors and people on fixed incomes.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart has also raised the issue, pointing to the cost of parking at Vancouver General Hospital.
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The City of Delta banned pay parking at its hospital in 2010, and Mayor Lois Jackson has in the past publicly called on B.C. to follow suit.
The province has previously said that parking fees are a necessary funding mechanism for hospitals, and are needed to keep traffic moving.