An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
GET READY TO START struggling with pay parking machines at Royal Inland Hospital again. Free parking at all B.C. hospitals will end on March 4, says Health Minister Adrian Dix.
The no-charge policy has been in effect for almost two years. At the time it was put in place, it was touted as a way to help protect people from COVID-19 as they wouldn’t have to touch parking machines on their way into the hospital.
Now, Dix says pay parking must be reinstated because people are abusing free parking, using hospital parking lots as a convenience for non-hospital purposes. That’s certainly been an issue in Kamloops with cheaters using the RIH parkade and going to work or shop downtown.
But the problems created by pay parking at the hospital have long been a much bigger issue than that. Forcing visitors and patients to pay for parking at hospitals creates another toll on healthcare and adds to the stress that comes with health issues.
Dix’s rationale for putting pay parking back into effect sounds logical on the surface — “to ensure that parking spots are available for staff, volunteers and visitors, and so that free parking can continue to be extended to those who regularly receive certain treatments in acute-care settings.”
It’s true that those getting cancer treatments or dialysis will still be entitled to free parking, but claiming that paid parking for everyone else is needed to relieve congestion is certainly new.
Previously, it’s basically been acknowledged as a user fee, needed to help pay for new equipment and other healthcare needs. Returning a cash cow to the system is a more likely reason than trying to get rid of illegal parkers.
In normal times, there’s certainly a parking shortage at RIH but the answer is more parking and a better system for validating parking passes.
Access to healthcare is supposed to be free. That includes having a place to park.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.