Charles Gordon of Ottawa this Week gives us an interesting perspective on the paying for parking at the Hospital discussion that has been raging in Canada for some weeks now since the report from the healthcare professionals claimed that paying for parking was hindering the patient’s ability to get well. This would almost be satirical if it wasn't so true. He sheds some 'common sense' light on the situation and places hospital parking in with its peers, airports, churches, shopping centres and universities .... that is, places where people will bring their cars and owners who need the revenue.
CHARLES GORDON / Ottawa This Week
Dec 08, 2011 - 8:57 AM
Why paying for hospital parking is good for you
If you turn the argument on its head, it means this: The only way to ensure that there is parking for hospital patients and visitors is to charge for it.
We have developed an extremely advanced and sophisticated society if we can come up with theories like this. In fact, it is a sure sign that we have moved well past Nineteen Eighty-Four, our slogan now being not “Freedom is Slavery” but “Free Parking is No Parking.”
A further 1984ish argument has also been published: namely that making parking free would encourage more people to drive, thus causing damage to the environment. “Paying for Parking Means Cleaner Air,” the slogan could read.
All of this comes about because the Canadian Medical Association Journal printed an editorial advocating the elimination of hospital parking fees, on the grounds that they constituted a barrier to health care, a hidden user fee and, therefore, a possible violation of the Canada Health Act.
Predictably, everyone has reacted because nothing gets Canadians more riled up than parking, with the possible exception of snow removal. And perhaps cable TV costs.
Horror stories abound, and you will have lived through some of them, particularly if a loved one has spent an extended time in hospital and you visited frequently. Doctors quoted by the Journal tell of patients who are more focused on parking fees than on what the doctor is telling them, or who even rush off before a full consultation because they don’t want to pay another hour’s worth of parking fees.
The hospitals say that they need the revenue. It is a tidy sum, although a small fraction of their overall costs. That it is necessary is the result of the province not giving them enough money. The provinces, meanwhile, won’t give hospitals the money because the feds won’t give the provinces enough money.
So, to reduce that to terms we can all understand, we are paying $13 for parking because the provincial and federal governments want to balance their budgets.
Not that they are having any success with that.
The conclusion to be drawn is that if we want hospitals to give us free parking we will have to help them find ways to raise more money. But how? They’re already selling handicrafts in the lobby, renting out space to donut shops, putting donors’ names on stuff, running galas and who knows what else. Perhaps they could sell chocolate bars. Perhaps they already do.
It is probably out of the question to bring back pay toilets.
The irony of it all is that many of the complaints about paying for hospital parking spaces would disappear if it were actually possible to find them. True, at some hospitals, such as the Riverside, parking seems ample, but at others, such as the Civic, parking is literally and figuratively at a premium.
If you could find a spot, and fairly close, you probably wouldn’t mind as much paying for it.
There are places you pay to park and places you don’t and there is not much sense in it. As some have pointed out, you don’t pay to park at the church or synagogue. Or the shopping centre – yet. On the other hand, they charge you to park at the airport and the train station. Why do they do that?
Answer: Because they can.
The hospital is in the same position. Going there isn’t optional. You go there because you have to and you pay whatever. Don’t forget that it helps the environment.