The Ques­tion Are hospi­tal car park charges out of con­trol?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - Kevin Court­ney

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.

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