ns-parking-fees_220x124_1

A medical journal editorial says Canadian hospitals should do away with hospital parking fees, arguing they add avoidable stress to patients. (CBC)

Both visitors and patients at Truro’s new regional hospital now have to pay more to park their cars, but an anti-poverty activist says even a small increase could be a burden for people struggling to make ends meet.

Before March 4, parking was free at the new Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Nova Scotia.

But now "the maximum is $5 per visit, so if you've reached your maximum and you were to leave and come back on the same day it's another $5, or whatever the case may be," said the hospital’s operations manager Tim Tucker.

The funds will be managed by the Colchester East Hants Health Centre Foundation.

"We do need to find a way to pay for the parking lot itself,  for maintenance and things like snow removal. So that money goes towards that. But it also pays for important programs and pieces of equipment for the local community, said Tucker.

At the old hospital parking was $2.

An anti-poverty activist says for some even small fees can make a difference.

"I do advocate for some people who are experiencing poverty in Truro. It would probably come out of their food budget so it would mean a meal or at least part of their daily budget for food ," said Trinkie Coffin.

Last year the editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal came out against hospital parking fees.

"Parking fees are a barrier to healthcare and add avoidable stress to patients who have enough to deal with. This is parking-centred health care, which is not compatible with patient-centred health care," they wrote.

The Colchester East Hants Health Centre Foundation said anyone who can't afford parking at all can ask for an exemption.  

"It is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and if it shows there need to be provisions made, we certainly will do that," said Tucker.

The foundation said it will offer long-term rates of $15 weekly for people who have to make frequent hospital visits.

Tucker said all regional hospitals in Nova Scotia charge parking fees.

At the old regional hospital parking fees raised about $300,000 a year. The foundation said it isn’t sure how much money they'll net under the new system.