Starting next month, it will cost less to park at hospitals and other health care establishments across Quebec — a result of years of pressure from patients committees and consumer advocates to end what one Montreal city councillor called "abusive" rates.

Quebec's Health Ministry issued a change in parking directives last August, however, the new directives don't go into effect until April 1.

Here are the highlights:

  • Hospital visitors will be able to park for free at hospitals in Quebec for the first 30 minutes, instead of paying as much as $10 for that first half hour.
  • A flat daily rate will not be applied until a vehicle has been parked for more than four hours, a big change from the current practice of charging the maximum daily rate after 90 minutes.
  • Health care institutions must offer weekly and monthly parking passes, as well as books of tickets, at reduced rates.
  • Health care institutions must offer daily parking passes that allow motorists to come and go without penalty.

'People found it abusive': Lionel Perez

Lionel Perez, Montreal's executive committee member responsible for infrastructure, has been working for years on getting hospitals to review their parking rates policy.

Perez told CBC's Homerun that parking rules haven't changed since 2007 despite vast changes to the hospital network, such as the construction of the new McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the new Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM).

"Everybody understands that the hospital has to cover its costs. But it got to a point where people found it abusive," Perez said.

Pierre Hurteau, a member of the MUHC's patients committee, said the parking changes are great news for people on low incomes — especially those who have to go to the hospital regularly.

"Certainly for families with a lot of children, or [people with] low income, or seniors who don't have a lot of income, this will be a relief for them," Hurteau said.

To ensure stability, the ministry has said its new policy won't be revised again for at least four years, Perez said.

With files from Arian Zarrinkoub, Minaz Kerawala and CBC's Homerun