Activists say that parking fees implemented at B.C. hospitals are nothing short of a shakedown after learning that a majority of parking tickets issued at hospital lots are never paid.
The Hospital Pay Parking organization is a volunteer-based group advocating for the stripping of mandatory parking fees and the installment of better parking solutions at B.C. hospitals, calling the enforcement of paid parking at hospitals “exploitative” of the ill.
In a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the group learned that a majority of the time there is no consequence to not paying parking fees.
“The whole concept over paid parking is predicated on a lot of threats … people don’t understand, when you park at a hospital it’s crown land, it’s public,” said Jon Buss, lead volunteer with Hospital Pay Parking. “There’s no need to pay at all. They are confirming that most tickets are unpaid, and that no one gets towed.”
According to the FOI documents, between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, 13,105 tickets were issued at 11 Island Health hospitals and 4,660 were paid. This translates into a total of $327,625 in parking fines that were handed out, with only $92,428 collected. Sixty-seven per cent of these tickets were to hospital staff, not guests.
The highest-ticketed hospitals were the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, the Victoria General Hospital and the Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Additionally, no patients or guests were towed; all 13 cars which were towed belonged to hospital staff.
This, according to Buss, is an example of how the government works with private agencies to gain revenue based on empty threats.
“You can shakedown anyone you want … but you can’t prey on the sick and the elderly,” Buss said. “People are sick, anxious, medicated, and that’s not appropriate, especially when business is approved by the government. That’s the real problem we have here. “
Island Health has a contract with Robbins Parking for the facilities, all of which see a maximum fee of $25.00. Robbins operates the lots and collects the fees, while the hospital takes the funds from the regular pay rates, which vary between $1.50 to $2.75 per hour, with weekly rates available.
In a November conference meeting in Victoria, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the province is reviewing current paid parking policies, noting that hospital parking fees bring in about $40 million in gross revenue annually.
More than $8 million was brought in to Island Health hospitals, a healthy revenue considering that only $1.2 million goes to Robbins.
“The big takeaway is to think twice before you pay for parking when you have to use the services of a hospital,” Buss said. “We want to put pressure on the ministry [of health] so it takes action before the 2022 election.”
The best solution, Buss said, would be to immediately implement two hours of free parking, as was recently introduced for city streets around the Surrey Memorial Hospital. That would leave time for patients and supporters to settle into a hospital and register with administration for free use of the lot, while anyone who hadn’t registered would still be susceptible for fees.