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General · 16th October 2016
Lois Jarvis
The presentation which follows was given by Richard Hagensen and Lois Jarvis on behalf of Citizens for Quality Health Care at the October 13th Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board meeting. Questions and statements were directed to the presenters by the Directors. Director Marlene Wright, Director Jude Schooner of Tahsis, Mayor Larry Jangula and another Director from Courtenay made statements to the presenters and thanked them. Director Samson asked questions.

Director Jim Abram wished to make a motion after the questions to the presenters were dealt with and debate ensued as to whether or not to defer his motion to the next meeting in mid November to permit more information and discussion for the Board. It was pointed out that this Board has had this issue on the table for a year. In fact, in Sept. 2015 the Board had unanimously voted to NOT have pay parking. Ultimately Director Jim Abram made a motion for Courtenay and Campbell River hospitals to not have any pay parking. His motion was strongly supported by Director Brenda Leigh, who spoke to the motion, and by Director Babchuk.

A correct copy of the motion, which was passed with only 3 dissenters, will be included and can be accessed when the minutes of the meeting are available online at the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board site. MLA Claire Trevena and her constituency assistant Lynne Stone attended the meeting.

This is a strong message from the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board heading into a provincial election where this issue of hospital pay parking at Courtenay and Campbell River hospitals will be a significant election issue. BUT this is where everyone who doesn’t want to pay for hospital parking needs to get on board in strongly supporting our Courtenay and Campbell River Councils, Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, our MLA Claire Trevena, North Island Mayors and Councils, Citizens for Quality Health Care, Council of Canadians, patients, visitors and staff of both hospitals, etc. Please write letters to any of these people and do whatever you can to support this important issue so everyone can have, and deserve to have, free access to our hospitals and neighbouring facilities.

Citizens for Quality Health Care North
Presentation to Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board Oct. 13, 2016
RE: Opposing New Hospitals Pay Parking

My name is Richard Hagensen and I am here today on behalf of Citizens for Quality Health Care North representing people on the North Island in opposition to Island Health’s plan to impose pay parking at our new hospitals in Campbell River and Courtenay when they open in late 2017. Lois Jarvis from CFQHC is beside me and we will be open to answering any questions from the Hospital Board after our presentation.

A couple of months back, we sent the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board an open letter – also published in the Island Word and North Island Gazette – outlining our reasons for opposing pay parking at our new hospitals and offered some alternative options for consideration by the Hospital Board – who voted unanimously in September, 2015 to not have hospital pay parking at our new hospitals. Let me now summarize reasons expressed by many North Island citizens, Mayors, City Councillors, our MLA Claire Trevena (thanks, Claire, for speaking out strongly against pay parking), hospital employees and many other people and organizations like the Council of Canadians and Citizens for Quality Health Care North that pay parking is a bad deal for everyone on the North Island. The cost alone of pay parking is an unjust and financial hardship for most people accessing a needed hospital service especially those from communities outside of Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

As Port McNeil Mayor Shirley Ackland aptly states: “Pay parking is just another burden on North Islanders who must travel, often losing time from work to attend at a hospital whether it is time for themselves or a family member.”

Another quote - from Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood in a letter to Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams: “There are already so many prohibitive issues facing our citizens, and to add parking on top of the travel, time off work and out of pocket expenses like food and lodging, this initiative will create a financial burden to those who are only trying to access necessary services.”

Pay parking will have a negative impact on patients in that it will result in less visiting of patients by family and friends. A hospital visitor is just as important as medicine to the sick. Also, visitors spend a lot of time assisting patients taking stress off busy staff. A bond develops between the patient, visitor and staff.

For those people attending at a hospital for their own, their family or friends’ lab or other tests, doctor or specialist appointments, chemotherapy or surgery, having to continually keep tabs on the parking meters is stressful and can affect the quality of hospital consultations and procedures.

The aforementioned negative effects of hospital pay parking on the health and well being of patients and families is confirmed by the following statistics from a national survey of 1000 Canadians taken in association with a CBC Marketplace TVshow on Hospital Pay Parking:
• 56% said parking costs affect how long and how often they visit a hospital.
•38% said they couldn’t visit a patient as frequently as they wanted.
• 20% said they couldn’t afford to visit patients at all.
• 3% skipped medical appointments at hospitals.

Experiences in all countries with hospital pay parking is that the parking rates are continually increasing – sometimes on a yearly basis.

The negative costs of implementing pay parking include the costs coming out of our health care budget to ensure parking companies install, maintain, and enforce the infrastructure needed for hospital parking fees. I might add that, if your hospital stay or visit results in a ticket for overstaying your time at the parking stall, experience in B.C. and elsewhere is that the parking companies are very aggressive in their enforcement with ticket violations having extra fees tacked on – around $68.50 at Impark lots – which, if not paid within 14 days, are sent to a collection agency. I might also add that despite requests to Island Health and the Ministry of Health, neither ourselves nor our politicians were able to get any information on what the flat fee is that Island Health will pay the company administering pay parking at the new hospitals. It is abhorrent to have a parking company making lots of profit at the expense of the sick and the vulnerable.

Other negative costs to the taxpayer include signage in neighbouring streets and city enforcement of parking regulations near the hospitals.
Another cost is having a social worker evaluate people as “hardship” cases (to waive parking fees) not to mention the indignity of putting people through that demeaning process.

Core and ancillary services like the laboratory, Hospital Auxiliary (who run the gift shop, thrift store and volunteer programs) and the Hospital Foundation will lose revenue and donations as hospital parking fees will discourage people from accessing and donating to these important services that contribute to the finances and health of the hospitals. In the case of the Hospital Auxiliary and Hospital Foundation, they donate $650,000. per year to the hospital. The Hospital Auxiliary has $1,000,000. banked for requirements for the new Campbell River hospital.

The plan for hospital pay parking at both new hospitals also has and will have a domino effect on adjacent public community services. How so? North Island College near Courtenay’s new hospital has already imposed punitive pay parking and resulted in financial hardships for students and staff as well as increased parking on adjacent streets. The Aqua Centre in Courtenay near the hospital also plans to impose pay parking when the hospital opens. Island Health’s plan for Campbell River is to also initiate pay parking at Yucalta Lodge, the residential care home adjacent to our new hospital and this will have an extremely damaging effect on Yucalta residents and their families. Nowhere else have we seen facilities being penalized like this just because they are located by a hospital.

Here, I’d like to take a minute and give you some actual quotes from B.C. hospital patients and families:
“I was told at Surrey Memorial Hospital as I drove myself to Emergency…they no longer had a long term parking lot and that after 4 hours I would get a ticket and get towed…4 hours in Emergency is nothing most days.”
“Recently my mother had needed IV therapy at Langley Hospital. Little did we know we would accrue over $100. in parking in the first week. When the ward is completely backed up for hours, it really adds up.”
“We were told by Abbotsford Regional Hospital that the parking fees go into a general fund and that can be used to pay things like infrastructure…and CEO bonuses.”

Also, many people feel that Island Health’s rationale for imposing pay parking at our new hospitals is financially questionable and potentially illegal under the terms of the Canada Health Act. Island Health has stated that without pay parking revenue, parking lot maintenance and security costs would need to be taken from their annual operating budget which includes funding for patient care and services. They do not disclose the actual costs of having free public parking lots which may not be that expensive. The Canada Health Act Section 12 (1) (a) states the objective of the Act is: “to protect promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents in Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.” In Canada, this had become the subject of a legal challenge and currently in Winnipeg, Collin Kennedy, a cancer patient has launched a petition to the House of Commons to end parking fees based on the premise they violate the Canada Health Act.

So, let’s get to the message we are delivering from North Island people to you – the politicians who represent us on this Hospital Board and on your City Councils and Regional Districts. It is imperative that you act now on the issue of pay parking at our new hospitals.

What are your options?
1. Endorse hospital pay parking for the new hospitals. NOT. If this choice is made, it is endorsing the difficulties mentioned above which hospital patients, families, visitors and employees will experience and will burden North Vancouver Island constituents forever with hospital pay parking fees. Rates vary but Island Health has quoted up to $2.75 first 2 hours/$26.75 per week Victoria’s Jubilee Hospital charges $16. a day and nurses there say they get a ticket if they work overtime with so far no successful ticket appeals.

2. Administer a small levy on property tax in lieu of pay parking. Most people polled would prefer no parking fees at all and no extra taxes but if we are forced to pay, would prefer a small annual fee to satisfy Island Health’s demand for funding. Island Health has stated that if there were no pay parking, they would need $1,000,000. annually in lieu of parking revenue from the 1130 parking stalls – and if I were the Hospital Board, I would want to see a breakdown of how they came to that $1,000,000. figure – which they estimate to be over $625,000. for the Comox Regional District (Courtenay/Comox/ Cumberland/Area A/B/C) and over $370,000. for Campbell River and Area D. This is estimated at 5 cents per $1000. assessed property value which would result in a $15. annual tax for a home assessed at $300,000. Although some politicians from the North Island and Powell River have indicated that they would not support such a tax, we strongly suggest that politicians poll their constituents to ascertain their opinions about such a tax. A recent informal poll in the Comox Valley Record revealed 75% prefer a small annual fee or tax compared to 25% who voted for hospital pay parking.

3. Currently, Campbell River, Delta, Mission, Port Alberni and Duncan hospitals as well as various health centres on Vancouver Island such as Oceanside in Parksville have no pay parking. City Councils in Campbell River and Courtenay – the communities where the new hospitals are located – could pass a bylaw similar to that passed by Mayor Lois Jackson and her City Council in Delta forbidding the collection of a parking fee at their hospital. I’d like to quote Mayor Jackson’s view on this bylaw: “They (Fraser Health) were really angry with us in the early times. But sometimes, we the little people have to stand our ground as a matter of principle.” In Campbell River, with one exception (the Campbell River Airport), there has never been a charge for parking at our hospital nor on its public lands or streets. Also, many people are unaware that the 9 acres of land on which the new Campbell River Hospital is being built was a donation (in 1954) from the City of Campbell River so that, unlike the new hospital in Courtenay, no new money had to be spent here on acquiring land for the new hospital. We local taxpayers also supply 40% of the funding for our hospitals. We suggest that a bylaw building on those principles and against pay parking at the new hospital would resonate well with North Island residents. Campbell River City staff were asked by City Council here to look at the feasibility of such a bylaw six months ago and we suggest that, without further delay, staff draft such a bylaw for a vote by Campbell River City Council who are all on record as opposing hospital pay parking. Ditto for Courtenay City Council.

4. On a similar note, John Horgan, B.C. NDP leader, has stated recently that if the NDP form the next government, there will be no hospital parking fees where there has not been any previous parking fees charged. He also states there will be no roll backs of any pay parking that has previously existed. That would exclude Courtenay and Campbell River hospitals from pay parking as long as you politicians do not go along now with Island Health’s disastrous plan to charge for parking at our new hospitals.

So, to sum up, since this issue of hospital pay parking imperils every individual on North Vancouver Island, we urge you on their behalf to be bold leaders…stand up for your constituents…and use your governance tools to prohibit pay parking at our new hospitals.

– Richard Hagensen & Lois Jarvis
Citizens for Quality Health Care North
Contact: Lois Jarvis (250) 287-3096