BY KELLY ROCHE
An Etobicoke senior is fuming over what she says are increased parking costs at Trillium Health Partners following recent changes mandated by the province.
“Everybody knows I’m up in arms about it,” said Doris Hooton, 85.
“I’m very angry about the prices going up.”
The province froze parking rates at hospitals last January, while implementing a number of changes which kicked in Oct. 1.
Hooton says she was “happy to pay $101” for a 30-day pass at Trillium since she and husband, Geoff, 88, “have to go to the hospital regularly.”
But the price for a 30-day ‘H pass’ is now $150.
In addition, Hooton says she frequents the Queensway Health Centre, across from Sherway Gardens, but if she needs to go to Credit Valley or the Mississauga Hospital she’ll have to buy a new parking pass even though all three campuses are run by Trillium.
“I’ve had three operations recently,” said Hooton, adding she has to go in for aftercare, while her husband visits the heart and lung clinic.
“You do your damnedest to make ends meet and then they go and throw this at you.”
But Trillium spokesperson Cailin Rodgers says otherwise.
“Currently, patients and visitors can use the parking passes at the other two hospitals,” Rodgers wrote in an e-mailed statement, adding the new program is “more versatile,” allowing for unlimited in-and-out privileges.
“We understand the challenges many patients and their families face, which is why we continue to ensure patients have the ability to work with parking services and their clinical program on a compassionate basis for those who may be facing financial hardships,” said Rodgers.
What exactly constitutes compassionate grounds or hardship, though – and who qualifies – is unclear.
“Each patient, family and visitor situation is unique,” Rodgers continued, and “anyone with concerns about the fee for parking is encouraged to speak with their clinical program area.”
The 100-use pass works out to $2.25 per day.
The hospital’s patient and family advisory council was consulted regarding the new options, according to Rodgers.
Trillium isn’t revealing how much money is pocketed from parking fees, only saying revenue generated accounts for less than 2 per cent of its overall budget.
Revenue “will continue to directly fund patient care, as well as non-government funded services such as parking garage and road maintenance,” as well as 24/7 security, said Rodgers.
Under the province’s ‘hospital parking directive’, daily maximum rates have been capped at all hospitals at the cost which was in effect on Jan. 18, 2016, said Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care spokesperson David Jensen.
“While hospitals are free to lower their rates, the daily maximum rate must not increase,” said Jensen, noting the ministry has been informed hospitals are complying.
In addition, as of Oct. 1, hospitals charging more than $10 a day are now required to provide five, 10, and 30-day passes which are discounted by at least 50 per cent.
The cap, however, only applies to daily maximum costs, meaning the price of hourly rates or non-discounted parking passes may be raised as long as they comply “with all requirements,” said Jensen, including consulting with a patient and family advisory council, or equivalent body, “when developing or updating their parking rates or policies.”
At locations in which hospitals charge more than $10 a day and are required to provide discounted passes, “the discounted passes must be valid for use in any part of a parking facility accessible to patients and their visitors,” said Jensen.
But hospitals can charge different prices for passes to separate facilities, “as long as the passes to each facility represent a savings of at least 50 per cent off the daily maximum rate for that facility,” Jensen said. In addition, “hospitals can restrict a pass to a particular facility.”
The ministry estimates losing $28 million annually across the province, Jensen confirmed, and will be evaluating the impact of the directive on hospitals over the next year.
At any rate, Hooton says the debate over parking costs is impacting her health.
“It’s probably making my blood pressure go sky-high,” said Hooton.
Daily maximum rates must remain under the cap until March 31, 2019.