Hospital parking prices causing heartache for cancer patients

The Irish Cancer Society is calling on the HSE to issue guidelines for hospitals to introduce free parking for patients attending clinics

A charity has said cancer patients are being forced to spend up to €63 a week on parking charges at Irish hospitals.

The Irish Cancer Society is calling on the HSE to make parking free of charge for patients attending clinics.

The ICS ‘Park the Charges’ report highlights the financial burden of car parking on patients and their families.

The Society found that a four hour stay in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin costs €10 euro - more than double the price shoppers will pay in the Square Shopping Centre, just two minutes' drive away.

Donal Buggy, ICS Head of Services and Advocacy said parking charges represent a huge cost to patients at a time of financial pressure as well as physical and psychological stress.

“People undergoing treatment are facing real hardship in having to deal with additional costs and large drops in income and high car parking charges only add to this,” he said.

“We have proposed a set of guidelines for hospitals to the HSE, that, if put in place, would make a big difference to cancer patients.

“Some hospitals already give cancer patients car parking passes so we know it’s possible. We want it rolled out across all hospitals treating cancer patients.”

The report found that a day’s parking in the Mater Hospital costs just €1 less than in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre - one of the priciest spots to park in the city.

The ICS currently runs a ‘Volunteer Driver Service’ that provides transport for cancer patients to and from their hospital chemotherapy treatments.

The service currently operates at 21 different hospitals nationwide and in 2016 alone the ICS drivers provided 21,350 lifts to 1,163 chemotherapy patients - covering over 1,000,000 kilometres.

According to figures provided by the Society, at the 26 public hospitals that offer cancer treatment the revenue raised by car parking in 2015 totalled almost €16 million.

“While we acknowledge that car parking is a key source of revenue for many hospitals, the excessive rates charged at some facilities place an unnecessary strain on cancer patients and their families,” said Mr Buggy.

“Introducing free parking for patients undergoing cancer treatment will help ease the burden they face at a time of complex need and financial stress.

Our proposals include guidelines around car parking at hospitals that will ensure all people undergoing treatment for cancer are treated fairly, and that will provide for greater transparency in the levying of charges and use of revenue raised.”

Gerry Carroll, a 56 year old Acute Myeloid Leukaemia survivor from Dublin said his illness forced him to stay in hospital for 115 days undergoing treatment.

“During that time, my wife came to visit me five days a week,” he said. “It cost her almost €1,200 in parking charges alone in that time. 

“That’s a lot of money.  If she was able to get free parking, or even a reduced rate it would’ve been a great help to us.”

The ICS is calling on the public to back their petition calling for the introduction of free parking for cancer patients.

The HSE has been contacted for comment.