Two in five hospitals are now providing free car parking to cancer patients and over than one in five hospitals are offering reduced parking rates to patients who are undergoing treatment, according to an Irish Cancer Society survey on the 26 public hospitals that offer treatment to cancer patients.
Ten hospitals continue to charge patients full costs, resulting in a weekly charge of up to €63 for cancer patients who are undergoing treatment.
Individual hospitals have the authority to abolish charges for cancer patients, earlier this year, 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.
The Irish Cancer Society is calling on the HSE to publish national guidelines that ensure that cancer patients are treated fairly and equally across the country.
Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society commented on these findings: “It’s very pleasing to see that 60 per cent 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 added: “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 only national policy that currently exists in relation to car parking is that hospitals must set a daily maximum charge but there is no upper limit on this charge.
The Irish Cancer Society has recommended that patients undergoing cancer treatment should receive free or significantly reduced car parking.
They have proposed that any charges should be well publicised at car park entrances and that weekly caps on charges should be introduced to protect regular patients and visitors.
An also suggestion that hospitals should be encouraged to publish their car parking costs, what revenue is raised from car parks, and how that revenue is used.
Mr. Buggy highlighted the importance of a uniform national policy: “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”.
Hospital car parking charges across the country have been subject to much criticism and the society’s online ‘Park the Charges’ petition has so far generated 3,500 signatures from members of the public.