B.C. collected a record-high haul of hospital pay parking cash this year, says advocate

Click to play video 'Hospital parking revenue up in all B.C. regions' Hospital parking revenue up in all B.C. regions
WATCH: As patients and visitors chafe at parking rates at B.C. hospitals, new figures show parking revenues are up in every region in the province. Aaron McArthur reports – Sep 9, 2019

A B.C. man spearheading a campaign against pay parking at the province’s hospitals says new numbers show British Columbians are shelling out more than ever.

John Buss with said, for the 2019 fiscal year, parking revenues were up by more than the rate of inflation in every health authority in B.C.

In some regions, the growth in parking revenue is eye-popping, according to data Buss collected from the health authorities.

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The Northern Health Authority saw a jump of more than 45 per cent in revenue, with $1.034 million collected this year, versus $713,000 collected in 2018.

In the Interior Health Authority, revenues climbed by more than 13 per cent, with $6.036 million collected this year, compared to $5.328 million collected in 2018.

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Province-wide, parking revenues were up 5.65 per cent, with $36.388 million collected.

“There’s no reason why we need to invite for profit third party companies to come in here and essentially exploit patients,” said Buss.

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“It just doesn’t fit with someone that is in a state of mind that’s sick, that is need of urgent care that comes for treatment. People that are very anxious fearful.”

Buss acknowledged it costs money to administer a parking lot, and that systems need to be in place to ensure spaces free up for other visitors or patients.

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But he said as with healthcare, parking costs could be socialized, rather than providing profit for a third party company. He said hospitals could look at a system that offers short term parking for free, with some kind of a fee structure for longer stops.

But B.C.’s Ministry of Health said Buss’ numbers don’t tell the whole story.

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In an emailed statement, the ministry said while revenues may be up, the actual cost of parking at hospitals across the province has not changed.

“The increase in revenue at Interior Health over that time is mainly the result of adding 221 parking spaces overall (primarily at Penticton Regional Hospital) and a cost of living increase to staff parking rates,” said the ministry.

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“(Parking programs are) designed to ensure that health care dollars are focused on the provision of patient care to the best extent possible. Parking revenues collected directly offset operational expenses such as security, utilities, snow removal and general maintenance of the lots, allowing valuable health care funding to go towards providing quality patient care services. ”

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The ministry said in cases where patients or their families have financial hardship, administrators “will work with them” to ensure “parking is not a barrier.”

It added that Health Minister Adrian Dix has met with stakeholders on the issue, and is “systematically reviewing” issues around parking in the health care system.

But Buss said he wants to see action sooner than later, adding that despite parking revenues being at an all-time high, they still make up a tiny fraction of the province’s $20 billion health budget.

“The campaign is not suggesting that we try to starve or punch a hole in a budget. That’s not the issue,” he said.

“But let’s do it right. And when it comes to funding needs. Let’s have everyone pay for it. Let’s socialize it, let’s spread it across everyone. Because that’s how we fund most of health care.