QEH park­ing fees nickel and dime the sick, fam­i­lies

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

It’s a case of déjà vu all over again. On a some­what reg­u­lar ba­sis, the is­sue of park­ing fees at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Hos­pi­tal in Char­lot­te­town is raised in the leg­is­la­ture.

Op­po­si­tion MLAs con­demn the prac­tice, it gets roundly be­rated in the House and that’s where it stops. Park­ing fees con­tinue as Health P.E.I. will ar­gue the $350,000 or more raised yearly rep­re­sents an im­por­tant source of rev­enue for health care.

And in to­day’s tight fi­nan­cial cli­mate, ev­ery penny counts.

Each side has le­git­i­mate ar­gu­ments and while the case against fees is much stronger, it’s all to no avail.

The ar­gu­ments against the park­ing fees are as valid to­day as they were when first ap­plied in 1993, as they were when the mat­ter got a thor­ough dis­cus­sion in the leg­is­la­ture in 2011 and as they did in early 2014 when then-fed­eral fi­nance min­is­ter James Fla­herty opined about re­mov­ing the HST tax­able por­tion from hos­pi­tal park­ing fees.

Health P.E.I did not add the HST onto park­ing fees when it came into ef­fect in April 2013 and was re­mit­ting that ex­tra nine per cent to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, or about $50,000 an­nu­ally.

And still the park­ing fees re­main. And that’s where the is­sue will re­main un­til the next time it gets raised in the leg­is­la­ture.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Why isn’t there a bi-par­ti­san mo­tion pre­sented to the leg­is­la­ture, an open vote held and Health P.E.I. di­rected to re­scind the hated fees and re­move the toll­booths at the province’s cen­tral re­fer­ral hos­pi­tal?

The ar­gu­ments against the park­ing fees have been re­peated many times.

They im­pact most on the sick and their fam­i­lies at a time when they are most vul­ner­a­ble. We all pay taxes and they should in­clude the right to park for free at the QEH, to visit a doc­tor, the sick or a loved one.

Park­ing fees are not charged at any other hos­pi­tal or manor or public health fa­cil­ity across the province.

What’s fair for the Prince County Hos­pi­tal in Summerside or Kings County Me­mo­rial in Mon­tague – which have no park­ing fees - should be fair for the QEH in Char­lot­te­town. But it’s not. The QEH is get­ting more and more re­fer­rals as the scope of health care changes. More Is­lan­ders from ru­ral parts of the Is­land are be­ing sent to Char­lot­te­town.

More Is­lan­ders, many of them se­niors on a fixed in­come, have to travel longer dis­tances and pay a lot of money on gas to do so. And then they are met with park­ing fees.

It may not seem like a lot, and yes the first half hour is free, but it’s the lit­tle things that mean a great deal at a dif­fi­cult time.

It would be a mean­ing­ful ges­ture to end park­ing fees.

Health P.E.I. re­jected a call in 2011 from the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal to elim­i­nate hos­pi­tal fees. The Jour­nal ar­gued such park­ing fees are not al­lowed un­der the Canada Health Act and that they im­pose a bar­rier to pa­tient care.

The amount is $350,000 in a pro­vin­cial healthcare bud­get of over $600 mil­lion. Are there no ef­fi­cien­cies to make up for the lost rev­enue? Why do we have those fees if the costs in­volved are so high?

Now there is talk of a small con­ces­sion - that Is­lan­ders might get the first hour free.

PC mem­ber James Ayl­ward has long led the crit­i­cism to park­ing fees and this year he has con­verted Lib­eral MLA Bush Dumville to com­mit pub­licly to the cause.

Mr. Dumville’s pas­sion­ate at­tack helped con­vince Health Min­is­ter Doug Cur­rie to take a look at how much it would cost if the free 30 min­utes was ex­tended to a full hour. It seems to be the only con­ces­sion avail­able at this time.

Hos­pi­tal park­ing fees are a tax on mis­ery. In many ways, they are re­pug­nant. They prey upon the ill and their loved ones.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.