Maple Ridge Council looks at hospital parking

Considering ways to ‘lessen stress’ for patients and their families.

Coun. Corisa Bell suggested met with the health minister to discuss options in December.

Coun. Corisa Bell suggested met with the health minister to discuss options in December.

Maple Ridge council is giving up on trying to get Fraser Health to cancel pay parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital and will try to find ways to lessen the burden.

At its workshop Monday, council heard that Fraser Health makes $617,000 a year from pay parking at the hospital, after expenses.

Most of that money, 87 per cent, comes from meters, while hospital staff pay 13 per cent.

When considered across the region, from Burnaby to Hope, Fraser Health hauls in $10 million a year from parking fees at hospitals.

That’s only a fraction of Fraser Health’s $3.3-billion annual budget.

“Free would be great,” said Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse.

He doesn’t like paying for hospital parking, but wants to try to make it less stressful for patients and their families.

“Being as it’s over $600,000 a year, I don’t see them dropping anytime soon,” Coun. Craig Speirs said of the fees. “I don’t think it’s good money. I think it’s a problem.”

But Coun. Gordy Robson said that council shouldn’t interfere on the issue, noting that people have to pay for parking when they visit a clinic or see their own doctor.

Last December, council decided to get Mayor Nicole Read and Coun. Corisa Bell to meet with the health minister and discuss options.

Council also suggested a pay-as-you-leave system so that patients didn’t have to worry about overstaying and being ticketed.

Fraser Health, though, didn’t recommend installing a barrier that would raise as people exited the parking lot and paid their fees, because of costs, and that the layout of the Ridge Meadows Hospital parking lot doesn’t lend itself to such.

Bell said on Monday said it’s stressful for seniors who have to go in tests and while at the hospital have to worry about parking fees.

Ninety per cent of the money collected from parking goes back to the hospital system, where it’s used for operating costs related to maintaining the parking lot and also put into general revenue.

Ten per cent of the gross revenues, or $106,000 a month, goes to Impark for managing the parking lots across Fraser Health hospitals.

“If we did not receive this revenue, it would have to come from other sources,” said an unsigned report from Fraser Health.

Discounted rates can be obtained through a social worker, online or through pay stations.

Part of the report included advice from the city’s lawyers, given in 2013, saying that the city could only impose free parking by passing a public health bylaw, which would require the approval of the Minister of Health. That’s never been done, said the lawyers.

Fraser Health is trying to improve signage so that people on low incomes know about discounts that are available. An automated pay-by-licence plate number, by either using mobile phones or at pay stations, which would make it easier to pay, is being tested. But there is no date when that will be implemented at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

During the previous council, in 2013, Bell had pushed for free parking. Council, under then mayor Ernie Daykin, wrote to the minister about the issue, but didn’t mention reducing fees.

That letter did ask for parking signage to be improved, informing people of discounts available.

In December 2012, members of a local group, the Rx Rockers, were slapped with $60 fines after doing a charity Christmas concert at Baillie House. They were ticketed despite having parking passes issued by the Fraser Health facility.