London

'No one knows about it': Patient wants LHSC to be clearer about cheaper parking options

Cancer patient Teresa Marcy says London Health Sciences Centre should do more to promote a parking pass that costs $75 and covers any 30 days of parking over a 12-month period.

Instead of $14 a day, hospital visitors can buy a pass for 30 non-consecutive days for just $75

This photo taken last Thursday shows the parking pass options listed on the pay parking machine in the lobby of London Regional Cancer Centre at Victoria Hospital. Notice that it says the $75 pass is good for 30 'consecutive' days while the pricing on LHSC's website doesn't use the term 'consecutive,' saying only that the passes are valid for a 12-month period from the date of purchase. (Andrew Lupton/CBC )

A London woman who underwent months of chemotherapy treatment at Victoria Hospital says the hospital should do a better job of telling patients about long-term parking passes that could save patients and their families hundreds of dollars. 

"People are paying way too much for parking," said Teresa Marcy, 36. "This is an issue. I feel like it needs to be advertised in a much clearer way."

The lack of clarity Marcy is talking about relates to the pricing options for parking at the hospital operated by the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). 

After Marcy was diagnosed with leukemia last December, she immediately began an aggressive treatment regime.

She was in hospital for 28 days and followed up with more than 80 return trips over eight months to Victoria Hospital's London Regional Cancer Program for chemotherapy. 

Like many hospital patients whose treatment requires multiple appointments or long hospital stays, Marcy and her family racked up hundreds of dollars in parking costs.

Then, almost by accident, she learned about a parking option that would save her family — and she hopes many others — hundreds of dollars.

Parking passes

Instead of the $14 daily maximum charge, LHSC offers long-term parking options described on the "Parking" page of the hospital's website, including passes for:

  • Seven days: $45.
  • 14 days: $65.
  • 30 days: $75.
  • Five and 10-day passes are also available upon request.

The web page makes it clear the parking passes "are valid for one year from the time of purchase" and can be used to park at both Victoria and University Hospitals.

While the website says the 30-day pass is valid for a calendar year, it doesn't make it clear that those 30 days don't have to be consecutive. (LHSC)

But what isn't clear on this page — and it's an omission that irks Marcy — is that it doesn't say the passes don't have to be used over consecutive days. In other words, a 30-day pass is good for 30 non-consecutive parking days spread over 12 months from the time of purchase. 

Adding to the confusion is that prices listed on the pay parking machine in the cancer clinic's lobby say the monthly pass is valid for "30 consecutive days including the date of purchase."

CBC News called the hospital's parking service and confirmed that all its multi-day passes are valid for 12 months from the purchase date and don't have to be used on consecutive days.

After raising this issue with LHSC, a spokesperson directed CBC to this LHSC web page which has the heading "parking policy." 

Near the bottom of that web page is the following statement:

"LHSC is in compliance with the Ministry of Long-Term Care parking directives. Parking rates at LHSC have remained the same, but as a result of the directives, parking passes are now valid from one year from the time of purchase and can be used on non-consecutive days."

Teresa Marcy made dozens of trips to LSHC last year racking up parking costs while undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Victoria Hospital. She says the hospital could do more to make it clear that their 30-day parking pass is good for 30 non-consecutive days over a calendar year. (Submitted)

But this parking policy page does not list the multi-day pass options beside the prices, as does this "parking" page does.

In a statement to CBC News, LHSC officials said they are "committed to providing safe and accessible parking options for our patients and visitors." The statement also referred to the parking policy web page and points out that all Ontario hospitals are required to operate and maintain parking lots through parking fees, not operating funds. 

When asked about a photo taken by CBC News that shows a price list on a payment machine that describes the long-term passes being only valid for "consecutive days," LHSC staff said "we will pass along the photo and feedback to our parking team for follow-up."

Discovered by accident

Marcy said the hospital should simply consolidate, clarify and advertise all pricing information about the multi-day parking passes.

She only learned the 30-day pass was valid for non-consecutive days after it was mentioned to her mother during a conversation with a parking attendant at the hospital. 

Marcy said if LHSC spelled this out more clearly on all its web pages that mention parking, more patients and their families would use the cheaper long-term passes. 

Cancer patient Teresa Marcy says the section of LHSC's website that lists parking options, doesn't make it clear that the 30-day pass is good for 30 days of parking spread over a calendar year, and doesn't have to be used for consecutive days. 'I would love to see it more clearer,' she said. (Submitted)

"When I found out, I wanted to put Post-It notes on the parking machines explaining: 'This is valid for a year and it's not 30 consecutive days!'" she said. 

For a frequent visitor to the hospital, the long-term passes could mean significant savings. Thirty days of all-day parking would cost $420, so buying the 30-day pass for $75 would save a frequent parker $345. 

London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan said LHSC could be clearer about how it presents the parking costs, which he said can be a significant burden to people already dealing with a serious illness.

"People who are dealing with medical issues shouldn't have to worry about whether or not they can afford parking," he said. "At a minimum, people deserve clarity on what the cost is."

Parking rates in Ontario

Parking rates at LHSC compare favourably to other large hospitals in Ontario. 

For example Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto charges a $26 daily maximum at each of its three campuses. Its website lists a 30-day use pass for $390. However, the Sunnybrook website does makes it clear the pass is good for "consecutive and non-consecutive days" one year from the purchase date. 

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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