park and cry

Former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives and all around douchebag Newt Gingrich summed up the primary purpose of political leaders as building a majority.

"If voters care about parking lots, then talk about parking lots."

There seems to be a lot of talk surrounding parking lots recently, specifically Ontario hospital parking lots charging outlandish fees.

In a June 19th piece the Error Banner reported that Aurora Council is forming support of lower parking fees at Southlake Hospital. You can read that here:
http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/3846735-aurora-supports-lower-hospital-parking-fees/

Aurora is not alone. The organization Fair Hospital Parking Charges is listing support at the council level from 7 municipalities as well as that of M.P.P. Frank Klees. You can find out more details about this organization on their site here: http://fairhospitalparkingcharges.org/now/

Southlake’s Parking is outlined on their website here:
http://www.southlakeregional.org/Default.aspx?cid=76

At $20/day I share Deputy Mayor John Abel’s perspective that this is nothing more than a cash grab and that it’s not fair to capture revenue from those who have to come to the hospital and use it to make a profit.

It’s not appropriate, devoid of compassion and double dipping into taxpayers pockets.

Conversely while Mayor Dawe, who is also a director at Southlake, is correct is stating "that revenue is important" he reduces the discussion by saying "It has to come from somewhere else. It’s either user fees or the taxpayer."

Vicki McKenna, vice-president of the Ontario Nursing Association, is not approaching this issue with the same blinders as our mayor. Back in March in a CBC piece that can be found here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/03/28/marketplace-hospital-parking.html

McKenna concedes that hospitals need reliable revenue streams, but argues that it’s unfair to put the burden on already troubled families, and says hospitals should find another way to make money.

“I understand (charging for parking), but we have to take it a bit further than just talking about how much revenue we can get. We have to think about there’s a cost to that, not only to the patient, but to the system overall.

Decisions should be made about patients and patient care, and the quality of health services. Not about how much revenue we can make,”

McKenna points out the underlying issue that privatization plays in this whole mess:

“Unless you have it in your contract specifically about how it will be staffed, how it will be maintained, what the max parking fees are… you lose control of it. And I think that’s what’s happened in most hospitals in Ontario.”

CBC’s Marketplace video explores the loss of control through privatized parking, you can watch it here: http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/episodes/2013/03/hospital-parking-pain.html

In late 2011 the Canadian Medical Association Journal started to push for an end to parking fees, this was reported in the Toronto Star here:
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/11/28/hospital_parking_fees_should_be_scrapped_journal_says.html

The response from Tom Closson, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, was that the journal’s editorial was an absurd waste of space:
http://metronews.ca/news/london/36662/proposal-that-hospitals-drop-parking-fees-sparks-london-debate/

The Star followed up with this piece emphasizing the more than obvious disconnect between directors and general hospital users calling hospital parking charges are the most insidious and insensitive form of legalized extortion:
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/12/12/cohn_why_hospital_ceos_cant_feel_your_parking_pain.html

Tom Closson’s stance, not unlike Mayor Dawe’s is absurd and totally unrealistic, and they are starting to hear it.

CTV News caught up with an Oshawa councilor late last year:
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/oshawa-councillor-calls-for-a-reduction-in-hospital-parking-fees-1.1094280

The feeling is mutual in Welland:
http://www.niagarathisweek.com/opinion-story/3271027-why-charge-for-hospital-parking-/

Closer to home there have been letters to the Error Banner over the past couple years about the fees at Southlake, a cursory search was able to pull these 3:

http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/1425622-family-visits-impacted-by-high-parking-costs/

http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/1455984-donation-won-t-come-after-parking-costs/

http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/1434925-hospital-parking-fees-excessive-cash-cow/

Here in Aurora councillor Buck had a couple posts on the subject back in 2011:
http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/2011/04/hospital.html

http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/2011/04/heres-another-thought.html

Although it is not an isolated incident perhaps the extortion that is going on at Southlake is exceptionally hard to stomach given the recent tragedy that occurred taking the life of someone trying to pay for their parking.

Attempts to justify its parking fees as anything but absurd and unrealistic makes me question the integrity of any hospital, particularly Southlake and its board of directors.

While the province looks to bring about measures to correct this situation Southlake needs to take a good look in the mirror and seriously consider Linda White of Newmarket’s suggestion here: http://www.yorkregion.com/opinion-story/1424339-don-t-waste-time-fix-parking-lot-now/

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