Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Parents of disabled kids can least afford hospital parking fees

By Louise Kinross

Wow! In Scotland patients and families don't pay for hospital parking. According to this fascinating article in the Ottawa Citizen, officials there said it went against the concept of universal access to health care.

In Ontario, Health Minister Eric Hoskins has frozen rates for hospitals that charge more than $10 a day, and called for multi-day passes that discount rates by 50 per cent. 

How do the Scottish hospitals replace the revenues hospitals in Ontario rely on from parking? The Ottawa Citizen article doesn't provide the answer. 

It does say that The Ottawa Hospital raised over $18 million in parking fees, with a net revenue of over $12 million, in 2014-15. This money is used to buy medical equipment and improve patient-care environments, a hospital spokesperson said. According to this article, parking generates about $100 million for Ontario hospitals each year. It's hard to imagine where that kind of money could be found.

Asking parents about their experiences with hospital parking on the BLOOM and Three To Be Facebook pages yielded numerous responses: 

One mom spent $1,100 in parking fees when her daughter was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for five weeks. 

"I'm afraid to add it up," writes another mom. "My son was in hospital for five months, I went everyday and paid $20 a day. We were in survival mode so we didn't really think about it." 

That would be over $3,000.

Another mom notes that a social worker told her about extended-stay rates that are cheaper, but other families may not be aware of this option.

Another mom says she was spending "upwards of $25 a day" when her daughter was in the NICU seven years ago.

Families already face exorbitant extra costs to support a child with a disability. For example, 
in this recent Today's Parent article, an Ontario parent spends between $10,000 and $20,000 a year on her son's expensive equipment and specialized camps

Many families raising kids with disabilities require one parent to leave the workforce and stay home to "manage" their child's care, substantially reducing their income.

The Ottawa Citizen article notes that parking, eating at the hospital and other expenses can consume up to one-third of a family's after-tax income when a child has prolonged stays due to cancer.

That adds up to a whole lot of financial stress and worry on top of whatever medical problem your child is facing and the juggling of trying to care for siblings who are left at home.