No need to worry…Casino Montreal still has unlimited free parking!
The running meter is a distraction that interferes with medical appointments.”
Dr. Rajendra Kale, former editor CMAJ
Our Facebook post last week on plans to reduce parking fees at Quebec hospitals was our most popular yet. Parking fees can be excessive and their appropriateness has been extensively debated.
In the March 6, 2012 issue of the Canadian Medical Journal (CMAJ), doctors debated the merit and necessity of charging patients for parking. Dr. Tom Closson, President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, argued that parking fees are one of the most common ways of making up the deficit of hospital operating budgets. He stresses that provincial government cutbacks to hospitals eliminate “crucial revenues that hospitals use to fund clinical research and front-line patient care.” He admonishes the Journal’s editorial board, “surely CMAJ has something to say about these and other more relevant issues, instead of banging away on the populist drum about parking fees.
Dr. Tim Meagher of the MUHC takes the opposing position, “I support free hospital parking for patients. I would probably also support free transport to and from hospital visits, reimbursement for time lost from work due to hospital visits, and reimbursement for myriad of ancillary costs that hospital visits generate.”
Dr. Rajendra Kale, editor in chief of the CMAJ, writes “”Parking fees amount to a user fee in disguise.” He urges Canadian hospitals to follow the example set in Scotland and Wales where hospital parking fees are abolished “because they burden (the) patient.” Dr. Kale concludes, “Those opposed to scrapping parking fees for patients need to recognize that such fees are, for all practical purposes, user fees and a barrier to health care. Using revenue generated from such surrogate user fees for health care is against the health policy objective of the Canada Health Act and could become the subject of a legal challenge.”
This opinion was supported by Dr. Brian Goldman, Host of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art, “I think hospital parking fees should be abolished because they punish patients.”
The highlights of the new hospital parking plan, starting April 1, are:
• Hospital visitors will be able to park for free at hospitals in Quebec for the first 30 minutes, instead of paying as much as $10 for that first half hour.
• A flat daily rate will not be applied until a vehicle has been parked for more than four hours, a big change from the current practice of charging the maximum daily rate after 90 minutes.
• Health care institutions must offer weekly and monthly parking passes, as well as books of tickets, at reduced rates.
• Health care institutions must offer daily parking passes that allow motorists to come and go without penalty.