Free hospital parking won’t catch on in Okanagan

Interior Health not looking to follow the Surrey model for regional hospitals

The City of Surrey council’s initiative to provide free two-hour parking around its hospital won’t be catching on at Kelowna General Hospital anytime soon.

Craig Paynton, Interior Health manager of protection, parking and fleet services, said Surrey’s move has caught people’s attention, but there are no plans for IH to follow suit at the KGH parkade, which provides more than 335 spaces.

“It’s one of those conversations that comes up periodically and what Surrey has done will spark it again,” Paynton acknowledged. “Nobody likes to pay for parking at a hospital but there is a reason and method behind it to cover the costs of operating a parkade.”

RELATED: Surrey council adopts two-hour free parking at city hall, hospital

Those KGH parkade costs, he noted, include general maintenance, security, lighting, fixing pavement potholes, line space painting and snow removal, expenses that otherwise IH would have to redirect funding from patient care services to pay for.

“We do an annual review of our parking rates, taking into account the cost of operating a parkade and local pay parking rates as well. It is about trying to find a balance between that and considering the parking impact on the surrounding neighbourhood if our rates are too expensive.

“We do have financial exceptions for medical hardships that are reviewed on a case by case basis through our hospital social worker program regarding daily and monthly rates.”

In Surrey, public paid parking at its hospital is provided by the city and Fraser Health Authority.

The Fraser Health parking lot rate is $4.25 for the first hour, $3.50 for each subsequent hour. The rates at some IH facilities are as follows: Kelowna General Hospital—$1.40 hourly, $6.50 daily; Vernon Jubilee Hospital—$1 hourly, $5 daily; Penticton Regional Hospital—$1 hourly, $5 daily; East Kootenay Regional Hospital—$1 hourly, $5 daily.

In Surrey, the free parking was a promise made by newly elected mayor Doug McCallum during the recent municipal election campaign.

RELATED: Editorial—Fraser Health should park the hospital parking fees

It would encompass city paid parking spots at both city hall and the hospital, which is estimated would cost that city an estimated $850,000 in revenue annually—$490,000 at city hall and $360,00 at the hospital.

McCallum said the move has financial implications but called it “the right thing to do” for taxpayers.

He said his council will also work to convince the Fraser Health Region to follow in his city’s footsteps and offer free, two-hour parking for the hospital parking spaces it oversees.

Delta resident Jon Buss, a retired businessman, applauded Surrey council’s decision, claiming high parking rates are a financial barrier to visiting family and friends of patients, and that causes unnecessary stress.

“It’s not right,” said Buss, who earlier this month launched his own website hospitalpayparking.ca.”It’s a place where people are at their lowest, their weakest, their most stressed…We can’t be making money-makers out of them.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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