Newfoundland Cancer Patient Takes Hospital to Court over Parking Fees - Jan 7th
A cancer patient in St. John's has taken his fight over the cost of parking at hospitals to court.
Tom Badcock has filed a statement of claim against Eastern Health, and had his first hearing on Monday morning.
He said the health authority's parking fees break the Canada Health Act, which says there should be no financial barrier to access healthcare.
"They are charging people to see their doctors. For me, it's not a tremendously big issue for me to have to pay five dollars for parking," said Badcock. "But there are a lot of people out there who can't afford to pay $5, $10, $50, that it costs. In Toronto, I believe, it costs $54 a day to park at a hospital. That is absolutely ridiculous."
Badcock refused to pay his parking bill when he went for a medical appointment at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's on Oct.10. Eastern Health officials called the police on the matter. Badcock responded by saying he'd fight the issue in court.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal published an editorial on Nov. 28, 2011, which said that hospital parking fees should be abolished. The CMAJ claimed the fees contradicted the principle of Canada's universal health care system.
Eastern Health's lawyer has argued to have the lawsuit dismissed
The case will be called again in February.
Badcock is representing himself.
BC Cancer Patient Fights 'unfair' Parking Fees - January 10th
A Langley senior is questioning the legitimacy of paid parking at hospitals, joining a growing movement against costly fees for patients.
Cancer patient Irene Harris says she pays more than $100 each month to park at Langley Memorial Hospital.
“There is no choice. I either do it, or I die,” said Harris, who receives essential treatments four times a week for four hours per hospital visit. “I feel like nobody gives a damn and they just want to get money every possible way they can.”
The Canadian Medical Association has said paying for parking contravenes the Canada Health Act, whose objective is to “facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
Large parking fees should be considered a financial barrier for those with low income, according to Harris.
“So many times I have to choose whether I pay for medicine or food, or a parking lot or food,” she said.
B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said it was doubtful anything would change and that it would be difficult for health care authorities to absorb parking costs.
“I personally would find it hard to think that parking is part of health care, that covering parking costs would be part of what our health care budget should go toward,” she said.
One-third of revenue collected from hospital parking lots covers the cost of providing parking service, said Fraser Health Authority spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward.
“The paving of the lots, the lighting, snow removal…If we didn’t charge, that money would have to come from general revenue,” he said.
The remaining revenue goes to the authority and funds a number of purchases and programs including facility costs, upgrades, equipment and patient care programs.
Thorpe-Dorward added that charging market value for parking ensures stall rotation, and a lower fee may attract non-hospital parkers.
If paying for parking presents financial hardship to a patient they can request a reduction in rates, special long-term rates, or for the fee to be waived altogether on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Harris said she incorrectly received fines last November for not paying for parking, but Fraser Health has since promised it will cancel the tickets.
Across the country in Newfoundland, some people are simply refusing to pay for hospital parking. St. John’s resident Tom Badcock has even launched a lawsuit against Eastern Health, arguing no patient should have to pay to see their doctor.
In Scotland, car parking charges at 14 hospitals were scrapped on Dec. 31 after government determined that the fees were unfair.
Hospital Parking Fees Should be Scrapped, says Canadian Medical Association Journal - Nov. 28 2011
It’s time hospitals abolished parking fees for the sake of their patients, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In an editorial, the respected publication states hospital parking amounts to nothing more than user fees and is subsequently an impediment to health care.
Putting the proceeds toward health care runs counter to the Canada Health Act’s objectives and could become the subject of a legal challenge, writes Dr. Rajendra Kale, the journal’s interim editor-in-chief.
“Some patients (who have often waited several weeks to see a doctor) try to end a consultation abruptly when they realize that they will have to pay for an additional hour for parking,” he writes. “This is parking-centred health care, which is not compatible with patient-centred health care.”
David Montgomery, president of Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in rural southwestern Ontario, agreed.
“My own personal philosophy is that we shouldn’t have to charge patients and visitors. We should be doing whatever we can to make it easier for them to seek out care,” he said.
Montgomery added that War Memorial’s “favourable financial position” has helped them avoid parking fees — a luxury not afforded by many other Canadian hospitals that rely on the revenue as a source of additional income.
“We think what they are recommending is absurd and totally unrealistic,” Tom Closson, chief executive officer of the Ontario Hospital Association, told the Toronto Star on Monday.
It’s important to remember the province funds only 74 per cent of all hospital costs, or $17.2 billion, while hospitals in Ontario spend $23 billion, Closson added. “This is a portion of . . . what they need to pay the difference.”
The editorial notes hospital parking fees were abolished in Scotland in 2008.
“Little needs to be said about the plight of patients undergoing regular dialysis or chemotherapy who need to make an endless number of trips to the hospital,” Kale writes. “And what about parents who have to drive sick children to hospital?”
Many Canadians have no option but to drive, given the size of the country and the fact specialists are often located in larger urban centres, Kale argues.
Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition, a public health advocacy group, said scrapping “exorbitant” hospital parking fees makes perfect sense.
“What it means is that’s it’s a levy on the elderly and family members of people who are ill or people who are ill and require hospital care. It’s almost like charging them a user fee to see their doctor,” she said.
The CMAJ says the amount hospitals generate through parking fees is only a small amount of their overall budgets — in some cases, about 1 per cent.
Closson said that may not sound like a lot of money, but it represents $230 million a year across Ontario. “It’s quite a significant revenue source,” he said.
In Atlantic Canada, Cape Breton’s district health authority began rolling out paid parking to its hospitals in the mid-1990s to fund medical equipment purchases, said district spokesman Greg Boone.
Four of the district’s six critical care hospitals now charge patients and residents $3 each time they enter the parking lot. The fee, though small compared with the rate of major urban hospitals, is expected to generate over $900,000 this year for hospital programs, services and equipment, Boone added.
Justine Jackson, a senior vice-president and chief financial officer at Toronto’s University Health Network, said hospitals everywhere are looking to “make money so we can do more health care.” The network’s three hospitals — Princess Margaret, Toronto General and Toronto Western — net about $6.5 million annually in parking fees.
“It’s not quite a user fee because patients do have a choice,” Jackson said. “They don’t have to drive. They can take public transit. So the fact that they prefer to drive is a choice they make.”
At Queen’s Park, Health Minister Deb Matthews noted “parking fees do not fall under the Canada Health Act,” so the province can’t control them.
But Matthews said people should raise the matter with their local hospital, pointing out some already give special rates to some dialysis patients or parents of children in neonatal units. “I would urge hospitals to have an open mind when people come with concerns about the fees,” she said.
Pamela Fralick, president and CEO of the Canadian Healthcare Association, said in a “perfect world” it would be great to abolish parking fees. “But if we do remove this source of revenue, something has to give and my question would be what it is that we give up?”
I guess the question is if charging patients parking fees violates our constitutional right to free health care. Several health department people have said that parking fees aren't covered by the Canada Health Act, but does that matter? A charge is a charge. Right?
The quote i bolded above i find to have been rather hilariously insensitive. To suggest that weak, elderly people getting cancer treatment should hoof it to the hospital on public transit? (Btw, which would also be another fee) Is quite ridiculous. Why not just off 'em right away to open up more parking stalls, if indeed parking is a high priority.
Imo it's good to see some Canadians actually stand up for their rights for once. I hope the newfoundland case goes through.
In the meantime, if funding is an issue, perhaps the provinces should be fighting the feds for larger transfer payments? The federal share of healthcare has been dwindling more and more over the decades.