Hospital parking charge cap further delayed

Cost review from 2018 is to be redone with no sign of when commitments made in 2020 will be met.

By Alice Chambers

MEASURES TO INTRODUCE a cap on hospital car parking charges will be further delayed as the HSE redoes work on the issue that it already completed five years ago.

In 2018, the HSE undertook a national review of car parking charges at the request of the then-Minister for Health Simon Harris.

It recommended that hospitals should cap the maximum daily rate for parking at €10 and introduce concessions for regular patients and found that “funding of approximately €4.75m would be required to offset the reduction in income as a result of these changes”.

Reducing hospital parking costs became a key promise in the 2020 Programme for Government but no further progress was made, a Noteworthy investigation revealed last January, despite the HSE having submitted an implementation plan to the government in 2019.

Now, the HSE has told Noteworthy that it is to reestablish its original working group on hospital car parking charges.

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A top official “is preparing to re-engage the original working group for the development of a national guidance document to support the development of local policies in relation to hospital car parking”, a HSE spokesperson told Noteworthy.

Noteworthy made the 2018 review public for the first time as part of our investigation.

We also revealed that a 2019 HSE implementation plan based on the review had been “superseded by the passage of time” according to the HSE who refused to release it to us.

The HSE also appears to be changing the scope of its 2018 recommendations.

Instead of introducing a national cap, the spokesperson said that a “‘one size fits all’ policy is not implementable across the acute hospital system” and that “it is envisaged the maximum daily rate would be set locally by each site with consideration given to average costs in the region”.

The Irish Cancer Society welcomed the fact that “the conversation around hospital car parking costs is opening up again”. “As [we have] been campaigning for the abolition of these charges for close to a decade, we would hope to see real progress on removing car parking charges,” they told Noteworthy.

Government needs to step up and reduce hospital parking fees as promised.

“Only this measure will work to alleviate some of the financial pressure which comes following a cancer diagnosis,” the spokesperson said.

The Department for Health did not comment on the fact that nothing was ever done with the 2018 recommendations when we put this to them.

A spokesperson reiterated the 2020 Programme for Government commitment “to introduce a maximum daily car parking charge for patients and visitors at all public hospitals, where possible, and to introduce flexible passes in all public hospitals for patients and their families”.

Regional disparities to remain

In relation to the new national guidance document, the HSE spokesperson told Noteworthy said that only some illnesses or conditions will qualify a patient for capped parking. They added that the HSE would take inflation and the cost of living crisis into account when issuing its guidance.

There are huge regional disparities in parking costs. According to the Irish Cancer Society, cancer patients in Dublin can pay up to five times more than those in rural areas.

“The public overwhelmingly supports the abolition of car parking costs,” a spokesperson for the society said, citing a public opinion survey they conducted in August.

The Department of Health did not respond directly when Noteworthy pointed out that these new HSE criteria appear to fall short of its 2020 promises. But a spokesperson said that the government appreciates “the financial challenge that can be faced by people in meeting these expenses, in particular where they are frequent users of hospital services”.

A cap of €10 per day for parking has been imposed by ministerial order at the new children’s hospital, for when it opens.

Everyone else will have to wait to learn more.

The HSE told Noteworthy that their working group would start on the new national guidance document early this year.

When asked in November to provide a timeline, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly gave the same answer he’s given for the past two years: “My Department and the HSE are currently examining the issue.”


By Alice Chambers of Noteworthy

Noteworthy is the crowdfunded investigative journalism platform from The Journal. This article was funded in its entirety by our investigative fund.

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