PRH parking

Of the 2,347 parking tickets issued at Penticton Regional Hospital last year, just 1,125 have been paid.

Motorists paid fewer than half of all tickets issued at three Okanagan hospitals last year, according to data obtained by an advocacy group calling for the end of paid parking at B.C. health facilities.

“What I want to do with this, really, is to show the trend: People are not paying the tickets, most are being cancelled, (fine) revenue is ridiculous and none of it goes to the hospital,” said Jon Buss, who leads HospitalPayParking.ca.

Data from Interior Health that he obtained through a freedom of information request shows a total of 10,753 parking tickets with a $57 fine attached were issued by contractor Impark during the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019, at hospitals in Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton.

Of those tickets, just 4,866 – or 45% – had been paid as of this week. Another 3,354 – or 32% – had been cancelled, while the balance were listed as outstanding.

Revenue from fines goes to Impark. The numbers suggest that of the $647,000 in potential fine revenue at the three sites last year, just $277,362 was realized.

Buss said that proves thousands of people using the hospitals are being subjected to undue stress as a result of the pay-parking scheme that produces relatively little revenue for a private-sector company.

He also suggested pay parking is an impediment to some people accessing health care.

“I’ve been in hospital many, many years ago and it was a stressful time. There’s people that have really horrible things happen to them that have to go through this. It’s crazy. It’s bad enough just having to go” to the hospital,” said Buss.

IH parking services manager Craig Paynton countered that the number of cancelled tickets demonstrates there is compassion built into the system, and noted people who feel they’ve been wrongly ticketed due to extenuating circumstances are encouraged to call Impark to discuss the matter.

“If there is genuine financial hardship, hospital social workers will work with the patient and their family to find a solution. Per IH’s paid parking policy, fee exemptions apply to patients and clients with identified extenuating circumstances based on medical or financial hardship and are reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” Paynton said in a statement.

He went on to explain parking fees encourage turnover in the lots, ensuring spaces are available, and revenue “directly offsets operational expenses such as security, utilities, snow removal, general maintenance of the lots, as well as capital improvements. All of which allow valuable health care funding to go towards providing quality patient care services.”

Buss disagrees with that rationale.

He noted IH had a $2.2-billion operating budget for 2017-18 that included parking revenue of $5.3 million, equal to just 0.24% of the total.

“Nobody should be fooled into believing that the removal of less than one half of one per cent of a health authority’s operating budget will have any meaningful negative consequences for patient care,” said Buss.

“Health authorities receive annual increases to their operating budget, courtesy of taxpayers, that cover parking revenue many times over. The linkage between the proceeds of pay parking and patient care is not based in evidence. Rather, it is a veiled threat.”

Buss hopes the data release will finally spur government to take action – even just a little.

“There’s a middle ground: We could immediately, with very little cost, very little effort, go two-hour free parking at all hospitals across B.C. where they currently have paid parking,” he said.

“By God that would help a lot of people.”

The B.C. Health Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Parking tickets at Okanagan hospitals

                  Issued  Cancelled   Paid        %Paid

Kelowna:   7,234     2,254         3,039      42%

Penticton:  2,347     502            1,125      48%

Vernon:     1,172     598            702         60%   

* for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019

SOURCE: HospitalPayParking.ca