3 in 5 cancer hospitals now providing either free or reduced car parking to cancer patients
Irish Cancer Society once again calls for the HSE to publish national hospital car parking guidelines
An Irish Cancer Society survey of all 26 public hospitals that offer treatment to cancer patients shows that almost 2 in 5 hospitals are now providing free car parking to cancer patients, while more than 1 in 5 hospitals offer reduced rates to patients undergoing treatment.
Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society said: “We warmly welcome the number of public hospitals offering free or reduced car parking to cancer patients while they’re having treatment. Currently, ten hospitals offer free car parking, while a further six offer concessions on a daily or weekly basis.”
Mr. Buggy praised the efforts made by individual hospitals, saying: “It’s very pleasing to see that 60% of hospitals which provide treatment to cancer patients are showing compassion in the levying of parking charges, which we know represent a huge cost for many cancer patients, at a time of not just physical and psychological stress, but financial pressure.”
“Patients can feel the difference free car parking makes in their pocket at the end of the month, especially at a time when they’re facing big losses in income, and are forking out a lot more by way of statutory charges, medication and increased heating and electricity bills, among other new or increased costs.”
Mr. Buggy warned, however, that “there is still some way to go on this issue”. Ten hospitals still charge patients full costs, meaning patients can face charges of up to €63 per week when they’re having treatment. “Patients have told us that they simply can’t manage the cost of parking on top of the plethora of other expenses they face.”
Individual hospitals have the authority to abolish charges for cancer patients. The Irish Cancer Society believes, however, that the HSE needs to publish national guidelines that ensure that cancer patients are treated fairly and equally across the country.
Mr. Buggy said: “It’s unfair that one patient being treated in Connolly Hospital goes free, when another, fifteen minutes down the Navan Road, pays up to €15 a day in the Mater Hospital, or that patients in Waterford pay €8, when those in Kilkenny pay nothing.”
“The HSE needs to publish and issue to hospitals a set of guidelines we’ve proposed, which will not only ensure compassion and care at a difficult time for patients and their families, but will ensure wider awareness of concessions where they exist and will bring about transparency in how parking revenue is used”.
Currently, the only national policy that exists in relation to car parking is that hospitals must set a daily maximum charge, however, there is no upper limit on this charge. Among its recommendations, the Irish Cancer Society proposes that:
- Patients undergoing cancer treatment should receive free or significantly reduced car parking;
- Patients should be informed of parking exemptions in their first appointment letter;
- Concessions should be widely promoted and easy to understand and apply for;
- Charges should be displayed clearly and well publicised at car park entrances and wherever payment is made, along with on the hospital’s website;
- Hospitals should be encouraged to publish car parking costs, revenue raised from car parks, the use of that revenue and tenders/contracts with car park operators;
- Weekly caps on charges should be introduced to protect regular patients and visitors
Mr. Buggy said: “The lack of a uniform national policy means that even where free or reduced car parking exists, it can sometimes be organised on an ad hoc basis. We believe that if the HSE made these guidelines national policy, it would give many hospitals the push they need to reduce their charges and, importantly, would mean at hospitals that do provide concessions, patients would be better informed.”
The Society says its online ‘Park the Charges’ petition has, to date, generated 3,500 signatures from members of the public, and its engagement with local councillors across the country has not only boosted grassroots support to scrap parking charges, but has had a real impact with hospitals and hospital groups.
Mr. Buggy said: “Thanks to the great engagement we’ve had from the public and from local politicians, we’ve seen a greater flexibility from hospitals in dealing with cancer patients. Earlier this year, on the back of our ‘Park the Charges’ campaign, the South Infirmary Hospital in Cork cut its charges from €13.50 a day to €5 a day, meaning no patient having treatment in Cork will pay more than €5 a day for parking.”
To sign the Irish Cancer Society’s petition to ‘Park the Charges’ and for full details of the campaign, click here.