Harris pledges to introduce "compassionate" hospital parking charges

The Health Minister has ordered a review of parking charges in Irish hospitals

Harris pledges to introduce "compassionate" hospital parking charges

Health Minister Simon Harris and Employment Affairs & Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty talking to the media at Government Buildings | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Health has pledged to introduce “compassionate” car parking solutions at Irish hospitals for people with chronic illnesses.

Minister Simon Harris has ordered a review of the cost of car parking on hospital campuses.

It comes after the Irish Independent reported that HSE-run hospitals are raking in over €1m a month in patient and visitor parking charges.

Cancer patients in particular have faced mounting bills for parking during treatments such as chemotherapy.

The Irish Cancer Society has launched a public petition calling charges to be scrapped for cancer patients and their families.

Some hospitals already have arrangements to help cancer patients, and the Health Minister wants other hospitals to do the same.

“The review is not just for cancer patients,” he said.

“It is also for people who visit the hospital frequently – so you might have peoples with cystic fibrosis, people using dialysis or indeed other chronic conditions.

“It is different if I visit the hospital or you visit the hospital on a once-off basis versus the person who might be in and out of the hospital on a weekly – or several times a week - basis

Minister Harris said the income brought in from parking charges is “a fraction” of the overall health budget.

He said he does not expect hospitals to resist any proposed changes.

“Whilst car-parking charges can be a lot of money for the individual patient, it is a very, very small percentage of the whole income that comes into our health service,” he said.

“We as a government will find a way to address that.

“So I am not proposing the abolition of car-parking charges but what I am proposing is that we would have a review that would come up with common sense compassionate solutions for people who visit the hospital.

He said he believes the review could be carried out “within a short period of time – a couple of months.”

In the UK, the Labour party is calling for hospital car parking charges to be abolished in England.

Hospital parking is already mostly free in Scotland and Wales.

Minister Harris said he is hopeful his review will put a “paid parking regime in place that has two fundamentals at its core – common sense and compassion.”