Russ Curnew has been fighting for free hospital parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital for around eight years. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Hospital parking fees needed, but changes to payment system possible, health minister says

B.C. health minister Adrian Dix says hospital parking doesn’t need to be so stressful

British Columbia’s Minister of Health says the government is “looking” at how hospitals charge patients for parking.

But hospital users are probably more likely to see pay parking updated for the 21st Century rather than it being abolished altogether.

Earlier this month, a patients group opposed to pay parking released information showing that nearly $1 million worth of tickets were issued for each of Surrey Memorial Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Much of that money is never collected, with thousands of tickets cancelled every year.

Health minister Adrian Dix says he hears more complaints about hospital parking than any other issue. And he said he sympathizes with such people and has personally experienced the stress paying for parking can cause.

RELATED: Surrey and Abbotsford hospitals ‘targeted’ for pay parking profit, activist says

RELATED: Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

“I’m living it right now at another hospital in Burnaby,” Dix said in a recent interview “I go there regularly, and I go there, and I type in my licence number and they say one hour, two hours, three hours. I’m thinking to myself, well, how long am I going to be here.”

“I’m sitting there with the person I’m visiting and suddenly I’m ‘Oh, it’s 15 minutes. But either I gotta go, or I gotta go get the parking and come back. We want people to visit their family members and their friends in hospital. It helps them get better when they have that support.

He said there are a variety of reasons parking isn’t free, from the need to incentivize more people to leave their cars at home, to paying for the capital and operating costs of maintaining large parking lots.

But he said parking a vehicle at a hospital doesn’t have to be as stressful as it currently is.

“There are some things in our system that I don’t think work very well for people that really frustrate them as much as the matter of paying,” he said. “I think it’s challenging because it’s very important that parking be available for people when they go to hospital, so they’re real challenges. It’s not just about the money.

“We’re looking at it and there’s lots of possible options.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
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