Parking systems at hospitals across Calgary are being altered, and patients and families say it’s having a dramatic impact on their stress. What was once a pay-as-you-go system is now a pre-pay system.
DJ Kelly takes his six-year-old son Reid to frequent appointments at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. He’s annoyed at the recent changes.
“It’s really inconvenient,” said Kelly. “When you have a sick kid, anything that causes additional stress can make this even more complicated, so making this change to guess how long you’ll be at the hospital is virtually impossible.”
The new system means visitors and patients using the parkade have to assume the length of time they will be there. Most end up overpaying to avoid having to return to the parkade and add time before getting ticketed.
“The way it used to be, when you went to the appointment, all you worried about is your kid and now the question is, ‘Did I put enough in the meter?’ and that’s stressful. We are at the hospital every week and you can’t leave a six-year-old in a waiting room by himself or a doctor’s room,” Kelly said.
Lori De Witt’s 10-year-old daughter Ellie is a frequent patient as well.
“My daughter is on the autism spectrum and parking lots are not safe,” De Witt said. “She’s at risk of running and she can bolt. I have to pay with her beside me so I am fidgeting with credit cards or my wallet and she could take off. That’s a safety issue.”
“Let me pay on exit and charge me for time spent. Don’t make me guess.”
Other families like Lisa and Kelly La Fave said the cost of parking adds up fast.
“I think the parking costs are too high and it feels like a cash grab,” Lisa said.
“I’d like to see free parking in emergency,” Kelly La Fave said. “You shouldn’t have to pay in that situation. The last thing on your mind is whether or not you have enough money to come in and see a doctor.”
Alberta Health Services (AHS) spokesperson Bruce Conway said in statement to Global News: “The decision to move away from the gated parking system was made based upon the results of our analysis of similar operations within AHS and experience with other parking entities. Benefits of the new system include reduced overhead, ease of use, elimination of barriers to vehicle entry/exit, increased reliability, revenue loss reduction, credit card industry compliance and future technology integration.”
Conway said the savings from this new system will be invested into building new parkades and the upkeep of existing ones.
The pay-by-license-plate parking system is currently in operation, fully or partially, at Foothills Medical Centre, Peter Lougheed Centre, Richmond Road Diagnostic Centre and Rockyview General Hospital.
Families hope they will reconsider.
“I have talked to so many people… standing there arguing with parking services pleading their case, trying to figure out how to be able to take care of this,” DJ Kelly said.
“I don’t know how AHS could not be listening.”