Back in December the HSE offered to meet with the Irish Cancer Society after it highlighted the issue of charges in hospital car parks throughout the country.
The Society found that cancer patients are spending up to €63 a week on parking charges at Irish hospitals and they called on the HSE to make parking free of charge for patients attending clinics.
The HSE defended the charges saying that Irish hospitals raised €16m last year from parking charges and this money is invested back into services.
Last Thursday the matter was discussed in the Seanad with Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone suggesting that guidelines on parking charges in hospitals must be be introduced. She said:
“A three-hour stay in the car park of Tallaght hospital costs €7.50.
“This is almost twice what shoppers pay at the Square shopping centre, which is a stone’s throw from the hospital and which clearly has a similar value in terms of real estate.
“According to a recent report by the Irish Cancer Society, Dublin hospitals are the most expensive, which is logical in a sense due to real estate prices, etc.
“A four-hour stay costs at one of these hospitals costs €8.86 on average. At hospitals in Munster, a four-hour stay costs approximately €6.70 on average.
“This has a huge effect on people’s lives at a time when they are extremely vulnerable.
“Meanwhile, only seven of the 27 cancer treatment hospitals offer weekly discounted car parking rates.
“I request that the HSE and the Minister, who is in charge of everything related to health care, do everything to ensure the private companies which are in operation in hospitals are given guidelines or regulations to ensure people are not charged an excessive amount when their loved ones are in hospital.”
Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne, speaking on behalf of Minister for Health Simon Harris, said:
“The Minister, Deputy Harris, is aware that those hospitals which charge parking fees are very conscious of the financial impact of parking costs on patients and their families, particularly those with long-term illness.
“Consequently, the hospitals have introduced a maximum daily fixed parking charge and thus have capped these expenses.
“While there is no national HSE policy covering car parking charges, the executive advises the Minister that it keeps hospital parking charges under review.
“I can only refer to Tallaght hospital, which charges €10 for 24 hours, while St. James’s Hospital charges €15 and hospitals in Cork and Limerick charge €15.
“I know on a personal level, and I have been in this position myself, that when my brother was very seriously ill in Tallaght hospital last year and who later died, arrangements were made with the family and his eight children to be able to visit him on a frequent basis.
“They were very co-operative in the hospital about providing parking for them at a very low rate because his family was with him 24-7 for at least three weeks.
“There are ways for hospitals to look at that. What the Senator said is very relevant to some of the experiences I have had myself around the HSE not having a proper guideline for hospitals. I will raise that with the Minister myself.”