Saturday December 4, 2010

Local News

Robbing The Sick Blind

Abbotsford Hospital pay parking is the pits for Chilliwack patients

Staff/Voice photos


he Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre (ARHCC) is a $355-million P3-built facility paid for by taxpayers and even with a parking lot that can hold 1000 cars, designers underestimated the actual number of spots needed.

People have been driving to the ARHCC because they can't get an MRI, CAT scan, EEG or cancer treatment at Chilliwack General, and more then likely they've parked at the Impark lot there.

The public lot at ARHCC is generally so full that drivers idle and patrol for a spot for 10 or 15 minutes before someone leaves. Once they get a spot, they're charged $2.75 for the first hour to park there.

Chilliwack has some street parking as an alternative, but in Abbotsford, there isn't any street parking for blocks. Patients who want to park at ARHCC, have to be an hour early for their appointment because they have to factor in waiting time to get a parking spot. And forget about getting a spot on the street.

At Foothills Hospital in Calgary, planners had the wherewithal to construct a proper parkade.

Parking spots at ARHCC can roll over every 15-minutes and the stall is immediately resold. So it's possible to turn over a space 3 or 4 times in an hour hammering a potential $11/hr out for every spot in the lot. Multiply that by say, 200 stalls and that's $2000/hr.

Cancer patients can apply for a parking pass at $20/week or $50/month and that doesn't even guarantee you a spot. There is a seniors rate available but it does little to soften the blow on the finances of someone who is sick, laid off work and struggling to make ends meet. It's an almost insurmountable barrier for low income people.

The FHA did not do the public any favours by giving away the parking lot to Impark. They took a public facility, paid for by taxpayers money, and turned it into private enterprise at the patients expense.

Reg Longmore, who was a manager at FHA, told the Voice that "the reason you have to pay for parking is that the hospital does not own the parking lot, it is owned by private concerns, whose objective is to make money."                                                                   Foothills Hosp. showing parkade.

Imagine laying on an exam table to find out the tests will be running 5 or 10 minutes after their parking has expired. When patients rush back down to the car, they peel off a fresh ticket from Impark.

Ironically, while people drive around in circles desperate to find a spot in the public parking, the staff parking sits empty.

Most hospital P3s involve contracting a private consortium to design, build, finance and operate the hospital on extremely long contracts of 25 or 30-years.

They "bundle" all the services not directly involving medical staff into a single contract with guaranteed revenue streams to a host of private service providers; from cleaning and maintenance to food, records and laundry.

It is virtually impossible to terminate any individual contract without terminating the whole; at a potential cost of hundreds of millions. In the case of the Impark lot, FHA will have to buy out the contract and then rip the ticket machines out and open up the elite staff parking at an added expense and lost revenue.

The long and the short of it is that both the FHA and Impark are robbing the sick blind. If patients can't get the right medical help in Chilliwack, and are forced to drive to Abbotsford for treatment, then the FHA should reimburse every patient who parks there in full, or give drivers from this city codes to punch into the ticket machines allowing them to park free for at least an hour, or better yet, two-hours.   

The photos below show staff parking lots virtually empty while public parkers are hard pressed to find any parking at all.

Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice

The photos above show staff parking lots virtually empty while public parkers are hard pressed to find any parking at all.