The Ontario government is freezing the price of parking at all the province's hospitals and forcing every hospital that charges more than $10 a day to offer discounts for longer-term users.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the announcement during a news conference Monday at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
"We believe that parking fees should not be a barrier to health care," Hoskins said. "This announcement will make a difference for those who regularly visit our hospitals."
- CBC Marketplace: The impact of high hospital parking costs
- Hospital parking a "user fee" in disguise: CMAJ
Effective immediately, parking rates at all hospitals in Ontario are frozen for next three years, and after that, price increases can be no more than the rate of inflation. Hoskins said
Starting Oct. 1, all hospitals with a parking rate of more than $10 per day must offer five-day, 10-day and 30-day passes at a 50 per cent discount off the daily rate, with full in-and-out privileges.
Parking nets hospitals $100M yearly
Susan Kuczynski told the news conference that she has seen the price of hospital parking soar since she began frequent visits to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children in 1995, when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer.
The changes "will go a long way toward alleviating this particular burden for families," said Kuczynski, who works as the parent liaison with the group Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer.
Parking fees generate about $100 million annually for the province's hospitals, Hoskins said. He said the policy change will have a fiscal impact but could not immediately say what that would be.
The umbrella group representing the 150 hospitals in the province is not pleased with the announcement.
"For the past 10 years, government has actively encouraged hospitals to generate revenue to help fund hospital operations," said Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, in a news release. "The decision to cut revenues could not come at a worse time."
Dale said hospitals are now at a "turning point" after four years without an increase in base operating funding and face "extremely challenging" budget choices.
Kathleen Wynne's Liberals promised in the 2014 election campaign to cap hospital parking fees.
The government estimates that 900,000 people will benefit from the discounted parking fees each year.
A CBC Marketplace story on hospital parking found that more than half of Canadians say the price affects how often they can visit a hospital, or for how long.
Hospital parking: The real cost for patients (CBC Marketplace)