B.C. hospital parking: Non-profit group says less than half in Interior, Island regions pay their tickets

Group calls for free parking at BC hospitals

A non-profit organization that’s opposed to pay parking at hospitals in British Columbia says the system needs rethinking, and cited statistics to back up its case.

According to HospitalPayParking, ticket-paying compliance in the Interior Health region during a one-year span was 41.6 per cent.

Specifically, it said from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, 19,401 parking tickets were issued, but only 8,068 tickets were paid. The rest were either tabbed as outstanding or cancelled.

Put another way, HospitalPayParking says Interior Health is seeing 58.4 per cent non-compliance through either cancellation or non-payment.

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

“I didn’t expect such a high delinquency rate on paying tickets,” Jon Buss, lead volunteer at HospitalPayParking, told Global News on Wednesday.

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Buss said when people park at a hospital facility, they should carefully read the signs and understand that they’re entering into a legal agreement for parking on private property.

He said when people park at hospital facilities, they’re under a lot of stress, but thought that they’d “much more mindful and careful in avoiding getting parking tickets by keeping their meter topped.

“But, obviously, they’re putting priority on what they’re going to do, as patients or supporters of patients, which is the right thing to do. And when they’re getting tickets, for whatever reason, they’re not paying them.”

Hospital parking revenue up in all B.C. regions
Hospital parking revenue up in all B.C. regions

Further, HospitalPayParking said based on the standard $57 ticket issued throughout Interior Health facilities, the private contractor hired by Interior Health took in an estimated $460,000 in violation collections during that time span.

It also said three staff members had their vehicles towed, but not a single vehicle belonging to a patient or supporter was removed from a hospital parking facility.

The statistics, said the non-profit organization, came from freedom of information requests.

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

On its website, HospitalPayParking says “pay parking is a user fee that discriminates. Only hospital patients and their supporters pay the fee, and only at certain hospitals.

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“Due to the fact our cities were designed around the automobile, most people arrive at the hospital with a need for parking,” the site continues. “Therefore it is only reasonable to conclude that health care delivery starts at the property line with proper parking facilities.

“We think the current welcome message at B.C. hospitals of ‘Hi, I’m the pay parking machine and I am your first priority at this hospital. Pay me,’ should be changed to one that welcomes people with empathetic compassion.”

In addition to its parking ticket estimate, HospitalPayParking also provided specific Interior Health hospital parking ticket statistics.

Kelowna General Hospital

  • Total parking tickets issued in that one-year span: 7,234.
  • Paid: 3,039 (42 per cent).
  • Oustanding: 1,940 (27 per cent).
  • Cancelled: 2,254 (31 per cent).

Pentiction Regional Hospital

  • Total parking tickets issued in that one-year span: 2,347.
  • Paid: 1,125 (48 per cent).
  • Outstanding: 720 (31 per cent).
  • Cancelled: 502 (21 per cent).

Vernon Jubilee Hospital

  • Total parking tickets issued in that one-year span: 1,772.
  • Paid: 702 (40 per cent).
  • Outstanding: 472 (26 per cent).
  • Cancelled: 598 (34 per cent).

Kamloops Royal Inland Hospital

  • Total parking tickets issued in that one-year span: 7,841.
  • Paid: 3,107 (40 per cent).
  • Outstanding: 2,507 (32 per cent).
  • Cancelled: 2,227(28 per cent).
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Buss noted that the Island Health Authority collected just $92,407.80 in parking ticket revenue at its hospitals, and that the average ticket payment was $19.83, but that the percentage of unpaid tickets was 64.4 per cent.

Island Health region

  • Total parking tickets issued in that one-year span: 13,105.
  • Paid: 4,660 (36 per cent).
  • Outstanding: 4,994 (38 per cent).
  • Cancelled: 3,451(26 per cent).
Coalition opposed to pay parking at hospitals exposes greedy truth
Coalition opposed to pay parking at hospitals exposes greedy truth

In related news, Buss said province-wide, approximately $36 million is taken in annually from parking facilities.

While he admits that’s a lot, Buss says that pays for just one day of province-wide hospital care.

“In proper fiscal context, [$36 million] is peanuts,” said Buss, noting B.C. has a health care budget of $20.5 billion, and that the NDP government last year  committed to spending an extra $500 million each year for the next three years.

“The loss of $36 million will not be tragic. It will not mean layoffs,” he said. “Your grandma won’t lose her good care at the hospital. Yet the folks who propagate pay parking have always said, ‘We have to pay for this, pay for that.’

“They’re all perfectly, legitimately expenses in running the hospital system, but there should be no marriage to the proceeds of pay parking in order to pay for those things.”

Group aims to reform hospital parking in B.C.
Group aims to reform hospital parking in B.C.

Interior Health said although it understands the call for free parking at hospitals, the funds are used for the maintenance of parking infrastructure.

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“Generally what we’re trying to accomplish with the paid parking program is that paid parking pays for parking structures and upkeep,” said Craig Paynton of Interior Health’s parking services.

Interior Health says people can reach out to a social worker at a hospital if they have issues paying for parking or a ticket.

“[The tickets are] evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” said Paynton. “Start that process, talk to a social worker, about why, whether that’s financial hardship or medical reasons.”