Council follows up on Ridge Meadows Hospital parking

Will send letter outlining concerns, suggesting fees on more cost recovery basis

Health Minister Terry Lake has heard Maple Ridge politicians’ concerns over pricey parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Now, after the brief chat during September’s Union of B.C. Municipalities, council will follow that up in writing, with some suggestion to make parking less painful for patients and their visitors.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said the letter will suggest reducing parking fees so they serve as more cost-recovery than a revenue source for Fraser Health, “recognizing there’s a cost for everything.”

Lower parking costs for long-term patients could also be considered. But determining the fees for parking would differ at each hospital site in the system. For instance, reducing parking charges at Vancouver General Hospital would result in the parking lot being used by commuters.

For Ridge Meadows Hospital, however, parking should be operated on more of a cost-recovery basis, Ashlie said.

“It’s an important conversation for people. Once something becomes a revenue stream, you don’t want it entrenched that way moving forward, when the public is starting to say, ‘we don’t like what you’re doing here.’”

Hospital parking fees and the fines used to enforce them became an issue last December, when the band Rx Rockers was ticketed $60 when they were giving a concert in Baillie House Residential Care at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Ashlie said if hospital parking charges are too low, people will use the stalls for non-hospital uses.

But parking fees are a burden. “Because it’s an additional tax on somebody who’s going there. A good chunk goes back to the health care system.”

However, financial help is available for those in tough financial circumstances.

Projected revenue from parking for the Fraser Health for 2012-13 is $11 million. Projected revenues from Fraser Health’s Maple Ridge parking sites for 2012-13 fiscal year is about $500,000, and the cost of operating these services is about $78,000.

It’s a complicated issue, Ashlie added. If parking revenue is reduced, how will Fraser Health make up the difference?

On the other hand, people who are visiting patients are subsiding the health care system through parking fees.

“It’s quite a complex conversation.”

Discussion will continue at Fraser Health’s municipal government advisory council meeting.

Ridge Meadows Hospital is currently reviewing its parking policy and the demand for parking.

Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said previously that paid parking is not simply a revenue source, it also ensures a rotation of vehicles so that people aren’t using the parking lot when not attending Fraser Health facilities.

Earlier this year, council debated whether the district council should get involved with the issue and rejected a move by Coun. Corisa Bell to have all of council meet with Fraser Health, the minister of health, local MLAs Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, along with MP Randy Kamp and continue to investigate whether Maple Ridge can ban pay parking at the hospital.

A letter from a lawyer for the District of Maple Ridge said previously it can’t do anything about pay parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital, but council isn’t done with the issue yet.

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