Hospital parking fees may be on their way out.
At the B.C. NDP party convention last weekend, delegates passed a motion supporting free hospital parking across the province.
The ridings of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge-Mission proposed the motion.
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MLA Lisa Beare said it has been an issue at Ridge Meadows Hospital, and she knows people who have been frustrated with being forced to feed the meters while visiting loved ones there.
Beare said the fees “add costs at a difficult time and a stressful moment.”
Premier John Horgan has asked Health Minister Adrian Dix to review the issue.
Russ Curnew, who has been campaigning for free hospital parking in Maple Ridge since his old band was unfairly ticketed while performing for residents there during the holiday season of 2012, isn’t giving up his fight.
“I’m not going to quit. It’s a good cause, and I don’t think we should be paying for it.”
He has petitioned politicians from the Maple Ridge council of the day to current mayor Mike Morden and the premier.
Prompted by former councillor Corisa Bell, Mapel Ridge council considered bylaws to eliminate hospital parking in 2015.
The problem is hospital parking brings in so much revenue – $36 million in the 2019 B.C. fiscal year alone.
In Fraser Health, it raised about $15.5 million, which was $500,000 more than the previous year.
Some $820,000 per year is paid at Ridge Meadows Hospital. The money is used for lot maintenance and snow removal, and supports patient care.
The fee at Ridge Meadows Hospital is $3.50 for the first hour and $3 for each additional hour. There is also a day rate of $8.25 and an evening rate of $5.25
Jon Buss, of the Surrey-based free parking lobby group hospitalpayparking.ca, notes that allowing Imperial Parking (Impark) to keep the violation revenue has created an incentive for too-rigorous enforcement, given the nature of many hospital visits.
Impark manages Fraser Health and Coastal Health hospital parking. Buss has been unable to get Impark to disclose how much it keeps from the violations at hospitals.
He has met with hospital board chairs and learned they are not allowed to stop the flow of parking revenue.
“This has to come from the Ministry of Health,” he said. “But everyone I’ve met and spoken with behind the scenes is in favour of this. I think things will change. There is a lot of will.”
Beare, who is also in cabinet as minister of tourism, arts and culture, is optimistic the fees will be lowered or eliminated.
“When the premier directs the minister to review the matter, that’s very encouraging,” she said.
She noted the NDP government already ordered hospital parking fees frozen, and there is assistance in the form of hardship waivers and payment options for people who cannot afford the fees.
Bears said constituents who need this help can contact her office or MLA Bob D’Eith’s for assistance dealing with parking at Ridge Meadows Hospital.