QEH parking fees to stay

Health P.E.I. says it has no plans to eliminate parking fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Health P.E.I. says it has no plans to eliminate parking fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The organization was reacting to a call from the Canadian Medical Association Journal to eliminate hospital fees.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal argues such parking fees are not allowed under the Canada Health Act and that the fees impose a barrier to patient care. 

Health PEI says the parking fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown bring in a needed $375,000 per year.

"The parking fees at the QEH were put in place in 1993, whenever the health authority at the time had to take some action in order to come within its budget targets," said Denise Lewis Fleming, with Health PEI.

"It's been in place ever since."

"On one particular occasion, I was seeing a patient who was having episodes of being unconscious and her husband was driving around because he did not want to park," said Dr. Rajendra Kale. "He really should have been there talking to me and he wanted to do that."

Every other hospital in the province, however, offers free parking. That includes the Prince County Hospital in Summerside.

"We cannot remove a revenue source without bringing another approved and appropriate revenue source into place, and we haven't found another such revenue source directly," said Lewis Fleming.

Opposition Health Critic James Aylward raised the issue of hospital parking fees a few weeks ago in the P.E.I. legislature.

"I honestly don't know if it has to be replaced," said Aylward. "We have other hospitals on Prince Edward Island. We have a wonderful hospital in Summerside that provides all the services, and doesn't have that fee."

Aylward said the fees represent an added burden on many people who are already going through a difficult time.

Lewis Fleming disagrees with the argument that the fees are illegal and put patient health care at risk.

"The parking services are outside the hospital so we can legitimately charge for parking services," she said.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital does offer free-parking tokens for patients at the Cancer Treatment Centre and at the emergency room.

"It adds up," said Helena McDonald, who paid for parking to go to an appointment. "It needs some further study. Maybe we shouldn't be paying for parking."