Michaels: Parking analysis aimed in the wrong direction

Any look into hospital parking problems should first deal with examining why there is a pay system...

I’m relatively healthy—knock on wood—so hospital parking isn’t an issue I continually think about.

Four years ago, when I was pregnant with what felt like the biggest baby who ever lived in a human uterus, mind you, it was a major preoccupation. I was regularly going for tests and parking was a surprising pain in my arse, which accentuated the pain in my feet, hips and just about everywhere else.

It wasn’t cheap, and it continually expired due to waits for medical services.

I never bothered with street parking because, well, there’s none, is there?

Now, it’s one thing for a griping, yet healthy, pregnant woman who worked full-time to complain about parking costs, but I couldn’t help wonder back then; what of those who are chronically ill and therefore unemployed? Or seniors? Or the loved ones of those who are in need of continual hospital care, and are already burdened financially and emotionally by simply being a caregiver.

It struck me that parking fees are simply a nasty user tax on our community’s most vulnerable.

Sure, one might argue the funds generated by these fees are likely dedicated toward all sorts of good things for patients, like capital projects, research and equipment, but how much of an impact do parking fees actually make? And aren’t there other ways to generate funds for those things.

Of course, I’m not the first person to think there should be an effort to reduce or eliminate hospital parking fees. In 2011, in a Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial there was a call for free hospital parking across the country, dubbing them “user fees” and arguing they hurt health care.

Putting the proceeds toward health care runs counter to the Canada Health Act’s objectives and could become the subject of a legal challenge, wrote Dr. Rajendra Kale, the journal’s interim editor-in-chief.

“Some patients (who have often waited several weeks to see a doctor) try to end a consultation abruptly when they realize that they will have to pay for an additional hour for parking,” he continued. “This is parking-centred health care, which is not compatible with patient-centred health care.”

Perhaps the focus on “parking-centred health care” is something the City of Kelowna could look at while they’re discussing the various ways they can mitigate the hospital’s overflow parking issues.

The City of Kelowna has, after all, started a conversation with hospital area residents about how to deal with the increasing demand on the public parking in their neighbourhood. And I think that’s the most logical place to start.

Hospital area residents and visitors are invited to fill in an online survey regarding on-street parking challenges and opportunities in the area.

The short survey can be accessed from May 16 to 27 at getinvolved.kelowna.ca.

The Hospital Area Plan will guide future redevelopment and address parking and transportation needs in the area.