Editorial: hospital parking should be free

The cost of pay-parking is too high and not just on the pocketbook

One of the great things about Cowichan District Hospital in these days of being nickel and dimed (or loonie and toonied, with inflation) is that you do not have to pay for parking.

This is not the status quo at most hospitals these days, although it should be. Head to Nanaimo or Victoria, and you will see how much a half-hour with a loved one, with a doctor, or in the emergency room will cost you. So much for universal free health care.

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring is rightly worried that with the building of a new hospital, Cowichan will lose our free parking priviledges. You can bet that those putting together the site plans right now are penciling in “pay parking”, not the other way around. Paying seems to be the default, though they say no decisions have yet been made.

This is destructive. First, where the hospital is located, most people will be required to drive to get there. They will then be required to park. A really good way to alienate all your neighbours is to have people parking along the street to avoid the tolls. Second, for some people paying for parking would be a real hardship. Third, imagine coming out of the emergency room, after a long wait, only to find a ticket on your windshield. In Cowichan we’ve always been lucky enough not to have to worry about whether or not we can afford to go to the ER.

Then there are the people who might not come to visit someone if it’s going to cost them, or they might not come to visit as often. Visits from family and friends can be vital to how quickly and how well someone heals. Friendly faces and love as opposed to lying, bored, in a hospital bed feeling forgotten can make a big difference.

Now is the time to have your voice heard and join Siebring in lobbying for free parking to be part of the plan from day one. We understand the pay parking could be a way to raise some money for the facility. But in the end, we think the cost is too high, and cannot be measured just in dollars and cents.

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