Health Minister not yet moving on free hospital parking even after NDP members give support

Gary Hee is campaigning for free parking at Langley Memorial Hospital. Global News

The B.C. government is still reviewing waving parking fees at hospitals after the NDP’s convention voted to push the province to do just that.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the issue is one he has heard a lot about, but that getting rid of the parking fees is complicated.

“It’s a challenge in some communities to offer low cost parking and to police low cost parking,” Dix said.

“It’s a challenging and complicated issue but it’s one the premier has directed me to look at.”

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

Delegates at the NDP convention voted over the weekend to support phasing out parking fees on hospital grounds.

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The resolution called on the province to take “an evidence-based approach to ensure spaces are available and the system is not abused by those who are not patients or their family members.”

NDP members speaking on the convention floor described the parking fees as a hardship and an opportunity for private businesses to benefit off people’s illnesses.

Private companies operate the parking lots in most provincial hospitals and the province uses its profits either for health services or for community hospital foundations.

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Hospital parking revenue up in all B.C. regions – Sep 9, 2019

Dix says there has been a dramatic increase in revenues since 2002. In 2017 the province brought in $40 million in gross revenues from hospital parking.

“This has gone on for decades and it’s never been supported and it’s never been accepted by those who use the hospitals,” spokesperson Jon Buss said.

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“There has never been a big enough voice to get this done. A lot of people have memories of going to the hospital and the parking issue is often minimized, because people say, ‘It’s terrible what happened to me,’ but they don’t have the time to worry about the horrible thing of paying for parking.”

READ MORE: How much money does Impark make at B.C. hospitals? This group wants to know

Last year, the City of Surrey moved to get rid of parking fees at Surrey Memorial Hospital.  In July the City of Burnaby removed some parking meters on streets near Burnaby Hospital.

One of the concerns about free parking is that people will abuse it. Buss says the technology exists to alleviate that concern.

“We have always advocated to use technology. It’s about licence plate scanning, it’s about a clear understanding that if there is abuse of this area of parking, we need to have a system that is fair,” Buss said.

“This should have been done years ago. It’s ridiculous. Every day people walk out with tickets on their windows. They should go immediately with two hours free parking. It’s easy to implement.”

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