BY KELLY ROCHE
Mississauga hospitals are among those in Ontario creating discounted short-term parking passes this fall.
“Parking fees should never be a barrier for patients when they go to the hospital,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Monday.
Parking rates were frozen by the government Jan. 18 and will remain that way for the next three years, while hospitals charging more than $10 a day will be required to provide five, 10, and 30-day passes.
As of Oct. 1, passes must be: reduced by 50 per cent off their daily rate; transferable between patients and caregivers; equipped with in-and-out privileges throughout a 24-hour period; and valid for one year from the date of purchase.
Trillium Health Partners runs Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga Hospital and the Queensway Health Centre in Etobicoke, across from Sherway Gardens.
“The hospital is impacted by and will comply with these new directives from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,” Trillium spokeswoman Catherine Pringle wrote in an e-mail, adding the hospital “currently offers a series of multiple use passes for patients and their visitors at a discount of greater than 50 per cent of the daily rate.”
Parking at Trillium costs $3 for 30 minutes and the daily maximum is $16, or $25 a day for in-and-out privileges.
A Mississauga resident – whose mother was recently hospitalized at the Cooksville location – didn’t want to be identified but said she’d like to see better signage for parking passes at the garage entrance and gate.
“It’s kind of sad. You’re in a stressed out state as it is, and then you have to pay for parking on top of it,” she said.
She said she initially wound up paying $16, not knowing in-and-out passes were available until a family member informed her inside the hospital.
The ten-pass and 30-pass cards she bought cost $56.50 and $101.70, respectively.
“I found it reasonable,” she said, adding she doesn’t know when or if the passes expire.
Parking generates $100 million a year in profit for Ontario’s hospitals.
Two requests for revenue figures at Trillium were ignored but Pringle did confirm Trillium owns the parking structures at each location.
The province will require other hospitals – such as Sick Kids in Toronto – which don’t own parking lots to make best efforts to influence partners, such as municipalities and private operators, to cap or cut parking fees for people frequently visiting the hospital.
“We are thrilled that our concerns around the high cost of hospital parking have been addressed in a meaningful way that will help defray the cost of hospital parking for families of children with cancer in Ontario,” said Susan Kuczynski, a member of Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer.
An estimated 900,000 patients and visitors, including 135,000 seniors, are expected to benefit from reduced parking fees each year, according to the province.
But the Ontario Hospital Association said hospitals are at a turning point after the Liberal government froze budgets over the last four years.
“As hospitals continue to absorb hundreds of millions in operating costs without an inflationary increase, it is increasingly difficult for them to invest in other important health care priorities, such as capital improvements to their buildings, new medical and diagnostic equipment, and information and communications technology,” said OHA president and CEO Anthony Dale.
“The decision to cut revenues could not come at (a) worse time.”
Hospitals need transitional funding for operating cost pressures so that access to services can be maintained, said Dale.
Pringle said all funds received, “whether they come from government or other sources including parking,” support front line patient care, hospital operations and maintaining and improving infrastructure.
“Parking structures at Trillium Health Partners are important as they provide access for patients and visitors when they come to hospital. These structures are expensive to build and maintain and are not funded by the government,” said Pringle.
In Ontario, 45 hospitals currently offer free parking and 54 charge less than $10 daily, according to the province, while an estimated 36 hospitals charge more than $10 per day.