The Question Are hospital car park charges out of control?
A woman staggers into the hospital reception, clearly in distress. Medical staff rush to her aid. “I just need a little sit-down,” says the woman. Water is fetched. The colour starts to come back to her cheeks. “What happened?” asks the nurse. “Did you fall? Have you been in an accident?” The woman shakes her head. “No, I was just visiting my husband in the hospital, and when I got back to my car and saw the price of the parking, I came over all dizzy.”
Anyone who has visited a loved one in hospital will know all about the costs of parking your car in the facility. Let’s put it this way, for the expense of using the hospital car park, you’d probably be better off keeping the patient at home and getting in a private physician.
And if your loved one is in hospital for a long stay, then you could be really racking up the charges. According to the Irish Cancer Society, patients’ families could be spending up to ¤1,000 on parking over the course of a medical treatment.
Now, a new report commissioned by Minister for Health Simon Harris has recommended capping hospital parking charges at ¤10 per day, and introducing flexible charging for families and friends who frequently visit a patient. The report has suggested hospitals offer multi-entry passes for two consecutive days for a tenner, for five consecutive days at ¤20 and for 15 consecutive days for ¤35, with the hospital validating tickets to ensure no randomers take advantage of the special offer.
“Every effort should be made to ensure access and affordability for users while ensuring parking space are not abused,” says the report.
Only one problem with the parking cap idea: most hospital car parks are run by third-party private companies, who are in it to make profits. They don’t want to be handing out concessions willy-nilly – even to a patient’s spouse or close family member. The report advises hospitals to make third-party providers aware of any concessions that are in place, and to ensure that the provider honours any concession given by the hospital.
The Department of Health has acknowledged that some hospitals already have systems in place to ensure patients’ families aren’t gouged every time they come to the hospital, but “the Minister believes there should be a roll-out of national guidelines in this regard,” says a department spokeswoman.