18 Jul Parking Fees in Nova Scotia

Why do hospitals charge for parking?

Most hospitals in Canada are not-for-profit, and the medicare system in Canada is meant to ensure that healthcare is free. However, healthcare in Nova Scotia is severely underfunded, and though our hospitals receive the majority of funding from the provincial government, they are forced to make up shortfalls with user fees and passing costs on to patients. One such cost is parking fees.

Why do we need to eliminate parking fees?

In the past few years, hospital parking fees have risen across Nova Scotia, costing Nova Scotians on average three dollars per hour they spend seeking treatment or visiting loved ones. In other provinces, fees exceed $25/day per car.

Though the Canada Health Act (1984) is meant to ensure that healthcare is accessible for every citizen, many Canadians are unable to go to the hospital because they cannot afford to park their car. Those who live in rural areas of the province do not even have the option of taking public transportation to the hospital; they are expected to make long commutes, paying for both gas and parking for every visit.

Hospital parking fees are a barrier to healthcare, causing some to cut visits with specialists short for fear of unaffordable costs, and causing others to forgo hospital visits altogether. A CBC Marketplace report found that 3% of those surveyed are forced to skip medical appointments because they cannot afford the parking fees. A 2012 report in the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) journal points out that that patients who have waited weeks or months to see a specialist will end appointments abruptly when they realize they are going to be charged an additional hour of parking

Parking fees are unmanageable for those on fixed incomes, and are a struggle even for those who are not. They add unnecessary stress for those seeking treatment and their visitors. According to Vicki McKenna, vice president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, parking fees make people think twice about visiting loved ones in the hospital, and she has even heard that elderly patients schedule hospital visits around their pension cheques, in order to pay the parking fees.

Parking fees are also a barrier to those visiting their loved ones in the hospital. A CBC Marketplace report surveyed over 1000 Canadians and found that 52% of respondents found that parking fees affect how often they can visit a hospital; 38% could not visit a patient as frequently as they wanted, while 20% could not afford to visit patients at all.

In a report by the CMA, editor-in-chief Rajendra Kale writes, “parking fees amount to a user fee in disguise and flout the health policy objective of the Canada Health Act”.

Parking fees are a user fee that many people are required to pay in order access public healthcare services which should be free under a truly universal system of healthcare. Such fees do not represent patient-centred care, and they certainly do not reflect the publicly-funded healthcare system that Canadians are so proud of.

Can hospitals afford to run without parking fees?

Almost every Canadian has paid for parking at the hospital at some point in their life – while seeking treatment, working, or visiting a loved one. For some, however, parking fees are a more regular expenditure, costing upwards of $2000 per year. Though hospitals do rely on parking fees to help fund necessary services, this revenue is rather small in terms of the overall revenue made from all services. The Nova Scotia government has said that the total revenue from parking fees at health facilities in Nova Scotia is about $10 million. When PEI announced in April 2016 that it was eliminating parking fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown the department of health noted that while it collected about $340,000 in fees for parking it would only cost the province about $250,000 to eliminate the fees due to reduced overhead costs. Assuming that Nova Scotia has similar overhead costs, the price tag for abolishing parking fees in the province would be about $7.35 million. While that might seem like a large amount, Nova Scotia spends $4.1 billion annually on healthcare spending. Revenue from parking province-wide amounts to less than 0.2% of the total healthcare budget.

With parking fees making up such a tiny fraction of total healthcare revenues, it is clear that eliminating parking fees is an affordable and reasonable move – certainly more affordable than asking Canadians and their loved ones, who are experiencing severe illness or injury, to cover the costs. Though the need for increased provincial and federal health care budgets is already evident, it becomes all the more necessary when Canadians are being asked to pay out-of-pocket to access necessary healthcare services.

How you can fight against user fees:

  • Sign up to volunteer with the NS Health Coalition
  • When candidates from provincial parties come to your door this fall tell them that eliminating user fees and increasing funding for healthcare are important to you
  • Follow us on twitter and facebook and keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming community meetings where you can come out and help shape the campaign to help save and improve public healthcare in this province.