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Ontario Hospitals Still Charging Frontline Healthcare Workers Big Parking Fees During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Several Ontario hospitals confirm they are charging frontline healthcare workers costly parking fees as they respond to COVID-19

Many hospitals in Canada’s largest province are still charging frontline health care workers an arm and a leg for parking at a time when other jurisdictions have dropped parking fees altogether.

While provinces like British Columbia and Alberta have waived parking fees for all hospital visitor, Ontario has not — including for staff.

According to the Toronto Star, staff at Toronto’s University Health Network hospital were recently asked to pay up to $127 for a 10-day parking pass during the coronavirus pandemic, with plans to lower — but not eliminate — fees on April 6.

Staff at several Ontario hospitals confirmed to PressProgress their hospitals are currently charging frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic.

“For the day, it’s $26.50 but it all depends on what time they come in,” a Mount Sinai Hospital worker told PressProgress. “If they come in before seven, then it would only be $15. Anytime after that, it’s max $26.50.”

At the London Health Sciences Centre, nurses and other healthcare workers pay “$56 per month with a $20 deposit” for parking, a rate one hospital worker confirmed hasn’t changed with the pandemic.

Likewise, staff at St. Joseph Hospital in Toronto told PressProgress permanent workers need to pay $38 for five day passes. “Part-time workers, five passes, $40,” they noted.

Hospital parking fees have been criticized as a de facto user fee on patients and their families, something that violates the mandate of Ontario’s public hospitals.

“Parking fees amount to a user fee in disguise and flout the health policy objective of the Canada Health Act,” the Canadian Medical Association Journal has argued.

“Those opposed to scrapping parking fees for patients need to recognize that such fees are, for all practical purposes, user fees and a barrier to health care

Parking fees also offer penny-pinching hospital managers a way to claw back wages from hospital workers by nickel-and-diming them with user fees.

For example, Mississauga’s Credit Valley Hospital noted its nurses “can sign up for parking and it comes off their payroll, which would be $45 per month.”

James Meade, director of hospitals for the Service Employees International Union, noted some hospitals have voluntarily waived parking fees for healthcare workers, but this leniency has not been across-the-board.

“We have seen several hospitals waive parking fees for our members, and some for our members and hospital visitors,” Meade told PressProgress. “We applaud the ones that have taken this step and we hope that more hospitals in Ontario follow suit.”

In the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, when the Canadian Medical Association has identified much of Canada’s health system as being chronically “understaffed” the union calls parking fees an unnecessary burden.

“At a time when frontline healthcare workers are already facing incredible stress, both on the job and at home, giving them one less thing to worry about and pay for is the right thing to do.” Meade said.

Parking fees  generate around $100 million in revenue for hospitals, a drop in the bucket compared to the $65 billion Ontario spends on health care each year.

In 2014, Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals promised to cap parking fees after fees had ballooned under successive Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments. Last September, Ford’s PC government decided to continue a three-year freeze on parking fees but without reducing them. 

The Ontario Hospital Association said with successive governments failing to deliver annual increases in base operating funds, parking fees were essential to “revenue generation.”

An earlier estimate by the Canadian Medical Association found parking fees likely account for about 1% of Canadian hospitals’ net revenue.

Meanwhile, Ontario currently has the lowest health spending per capita of any of Canada’s provinces

 

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