The tune heard outside the Ridge Meadows Hospital was Mary Had a Little Lamb, but the lyrics were vintage Raging Grannies:
“Hospital pay parking is a scam, is a scam, is a scam
Hospital pay parking is a scam that does the patients harm
And Fraser Health just does not care, does not care, does not care
And Fraser Health just does not care for their patients’ welfare”…
And on it went Saturday morning, as the choir of seven Grannies sang their hearts out, calling for an end to pay parking at the health care facility in Maple Ridge.
“People were really quite happy that this is being discussed,” said Oosha Ramsoondar, who helped rally the Grannies for the issue.
“We realized that this is an issue that keeps coming up, and there never seems to be any resolution.”
The Grannies are a Maple Ridge group that lobbies for changes that benefit seniors, and generally tackle local issues, ranging from the need for new crosswalks to local strikes.
“We sing. We have songs that speak to the issue of pay parking and its negative effects,” said Ramsoondar.
“As grannies, we dress like grannies, and people stop and listen and are very amused,” she added, noting that the group will often pass out song sheets to audiences.
“Doing it [protesting] through song and theatre is not in-your-face confrontation, but still sends a message.”
This was an issue that hit home for the Raging Grannies. One of the members’ father, who is in his ’90s, fell ill, but delayed his trip to the hospital because he didn’t have the funds for the parking fees. He wound up with a one-week stay, and his loved ones left to wonder whether his condition would have been better had he sought medical help sooner.
“There was a direct impact on her family, for sure,” said Ramsoondar.
The Grannies say pay hospital parking is a burden to all patients, but hits seniors particularly hard because they are more apt to need hospital services, and they are on fixed incomes.
The cost is $3.50 for the first hour, $3 for each additional hour, a day rate of $8.25 and evening rate of $5.25.
This issue came into the spotlight in Maple Ridge last December when the local band the Rx Rockers had parking passes displayed on their vehicles as they played a performance at Baillie House, another Fraser Health facility, but were all still ticketed by Imperial Parking.
The Rockers got their tickets reversed, but band member Russ Curnew was inspired to campaign against the issue of hospital parking.
The issue has received considerable attention in the year since.
The CBC Marketplace program did a documentary titled “Hospital Parking Pain.”
A survey done for the show found 72 per cent of patients asked say hospital parking fees add stress to their visits, and 52 per cent say the fees effect how often and how long they will visit the hospital.
Another 14 per cent said it stops them from volunteering at the hospital.
There were 1,077 people surveyed.
Fraser Health keeps all parking revenue, approximately $500,000 per year. That covers $78,000 per year for lot maintenance, and the balance goes into the general budget for health care.
Imperial Parking retains ticket enforcement fines, and for “Hospital Parking Pain” the CBC interviewed a former Impark employee who said the company gives its ticket officers the incentive of a commission for each ticket issued.
Ramsoondar would like to see a petition taken of all those opposed to paid hospital parking, and the issue brought back before the District of Maple Ridge.
Municipal councils in Delta and Mission have bylaws that restrict paid parking at their hospitals.
Council sent a letter to Health Minister Terry Lake last month addressing the issue of paid hospital parking. It asked that signage at the hospital inform patients that long-term parking rates are available, as well as rates for those on low incomes.
Coun. Corissa Bell criticized the letter, saying it missed the point that people want free or reduced parking.
“We really hope council will pick up this issue for people who have a problem paying this parking fee,” said Ramsoondar.
Or, as the Grannies sang:
“Que sera sera,
Whatever will be, will be,
The future we must see
No hospital parking fee.”