It's "nonsense" that patients being treated for serious illness are still expected to pay high hospital car parking charges, a TD has said.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín says expecting patients to foot a parking bill "is in effect a tax on illness".
Deputy Tóibín and Independent TD Cathal Berry have drafted a bill aimed at tackling the issue.
It has reached its second stage in the Dáil and is due to be debated again tomorrow.
If passed, the legislation would see outpatients being offered three hours of free parking for every hospital visit.
It would cover the patient's car or the car of somebody who has driven the patient to hospital, although would not extend to visitors.
Speaking on The Hard Shoulder, Deputy Tóibín said people know a diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness is an "earth-shattering" for patients.
However, he said many aren't aware of the economic consequences of such a diagnosis.
He noted that the Irish Cancer Society has estimated it costs cancer patients around €800 a month to pay for "extra charges" such as travel to and from the hospital, childcare, and accommodation.
He said: “The idea that when they go to hospital they have to pay car parking fees is just a nonsense at this stage.
“Hospitals came up with it in the first place to plug a gap in funding that they were experiencing from the State.
"We believe in Aontú that health services should be delivered on the basis of taxpayers’ money - if you’re going to have these charges… it’s in effect a tax on illness. The more ill you are, the more you pay.”
The Aontú leader said he agrees that hospital parking shouldn’t be fully free for everyone
He said a three-hour limit means people won’t be able to leave their car parked after their treatment and clog up the hospital carpark.
Other parties called for hospital parking fees to be removed in their election manifestos, so Deputy Tóibín said this is a good opportunity for them to get behind the bill.
He said his concern is that the Government won't reject the bill but would instead let it “bounce around forever” in the legislative process.
He said: “We want the Government to commit to backing this bill."
In terms of the potential cost, Deputy Tóibín noted that figures he's received from the Government show hospitals gathered around €12 million from car parking charges in 2020.
He believes that the HSE has to fill any gap in funding caused by changes to car parking rules.