The Issue

Unfair parking charges at Ontario hospitals

The collection of parking fees from people at their most vulnerable moments is fundamentally wrong. The sick, the injured, the aged, the disabled, the chronically ill, the frantically-worried cannot advocate for their needs when personal health-care crises are upon them. In the midst of challenging, sometimes tragic, circumstances, the hospitals, health care facilities and the governments that support them must not seek to download budgetary pressures upon the hospital clientele.

At our local hospital, the Markham Stouffville Hospital, the charge right now is $4.00 per 30 minutes. That’s $8 per hour. If you know you’re likely to be more than 2 hours, you can buy a day pass for $15 but to obtain in and out privileges, you must know to buy the pass that allows this, for $19. This is by far the most expensive place to park in the Region.

There are no caps in place at this time. The rates, while set by the hospital administrators, are apparently a response to the “suggestion” of the LHINs in a public document that directs the hospitals to maximize revenue sources before seeking government funds. That document, called the Hospital Annual Planning Submission Guidelines, is here.

This is a relatively recent development, which has quietly spread across the province in the past few years. The parking fees are not covering the expenses of running a parking operation. They are now a coveted part of the revenue required to run a health care facility. And nobody asked you if you like it that way.

  • This is not a campaign to undermine the excellent work of our hospitals. We ask that the people of Ontario, as the key stakeholders in the health care system, be engaged in the decisions that affect them so closely.
  • Parking charges have reached downtown levels in a suburban landscape where parking is almost universally free. All community centres, libraries, arenas, cultural institutions, government offices, GO Transit lots and Main Street retail zones in both Markham and Stouffville provide free parking access. Current parking changes have reached downtown Toronto levels, at nearly $4 per half hour.
  • We propose that the parking charges are an inequitable means of meeting budget targets. The needed revenues must be achieved in a kinder, gentler way.
  • This is not a public transit issue. Outside of Toronto, many hospital visitors do not have access to reasonable public transit options. And who takes the subway to the emergency department, anywhere?

Possible solutions

  1. Lobby the provincial government to make policy changes across the board, for example, by implementing a province-wide flat fee that caps the charge-per-visit.
  2. Remove the charges and replace the funds with taxation through the municipal governments.
  3. Remove the charges and institute parking sponsorship by local commercial/corporate organizations
  4. Subsidize the charges, fine tuning the different user groups – staff, patients, visitors, seniors
  5. Implement a tax benefit for those using the parking services, that recognizes the fees are largely a donation to hospital operations.

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4 Comments on “The Issue”

  1. Beverly Northeast says:

    The parking fees at hospitals is really putting salt in the wounds of those (no pun intended) who cannot afford to even put food on the table.
    Until the province has addressed the issue of poverty I would suggest there be no parking fees at the hospitals.We have children living in extreme poverty with out a bright future. Does the Province not realize that everyone else is doing theiir job to address poverty, We have organizations raising money by volunteers to feed families, we have volunteers raising money to put shelter over their heads, we have volunteers working the streets to feed and cloth and offer warmth to those living through all kinds of weather sleeping on the city grates and yet the Province appear to be oblivious to this serious problem. Until we address this problem we will not see Ontario come back as a “have” province because there are more residents living now in poverty than there are making a liveable wage.
    If we as residents can give of our time to feed, cloth, shelter the homeless and those living in poverty then the Provincial government has to step up to the plate and assist us the volunteers in this province that are being good neighbors and showing we care.

  2. Carol Good says:

    As a former cancer treatment patient, I, too, believe that hospital parking fees are unfairly imposed on low income patients. Chemotherapy patients at Scarborough Centennial hospital were provided with a lower parking fee during the period that I was being treated there. On the flipside, Oshawa Lakeridge hospital did not provide cancer patients with discounted parking fees. I attended Lakeridge for radiation treatments for a period of 14 days. Both hospitals provided me with excellent care and treatment. I was, fortunately, able to afford the parking fees. My comment is: some patients already undergoing severe treatments are possibly not able to easily afford these fees. As a result, an additional stress/strain is imposed on these patients. Believe me please, this is the last thing any cancer patient needs. Surely our provincial government could help correct this situation. Just my personal opinion. Carol

  3. Russ says:

    Scotland stopped charging patients for parking in 2008.

    The Canadian Medical Association Journal’s interim editor-in-chief Dr. Rajendra Kale had the following to say about hospitals charging patients for parking “Using revenue generated from such surrogate user fees for health care is against the health policy objective of the Canada Health Act and could become the subject of a legal challenge,” (reference:

    Most Ontario hospitals rely on revenue from parking (which represents about 1% of their total operating budget) and have in fact, become addicted to this revenue source, forgetting that the reason they exist is to treat patients and to help them get well and make a total recovery.

    Like Scotland, we should stop charging patients for parking. This would be quite easy, the patient and/or their family would receive a parking stub when they go into the parking area and someone in the hospital would then stamp the stub and the patient/family would simply present this to a parking lot attendant as they were leaving the parking area and drive away.

    Sick people have no choice to attend hospitals in Ontario, but shouldn’t have to face economic hardship when they are receiving treatment after parking. Toronto General Hospital charge $4.50 every 1/2 hour or $28.00 for over 3 hours. Mount Sinai Hospital charge $22.00 for anything over an hour. Princess Margaret Hospital charge $22,00 over an hour and 20 minutes. The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) charge $20.00. These are charges that shouldn’t be absorbed by sick and vulnerable people or their family/friends.

    I understand that there are now 10 municipalities that are demanding that the Province of Ontario step in and respond to this issue. The Province in response, the Ministry of Health has responded by saying “…we encourage communities to work with their hospital boards if they have parking concerns”. The Premier, Premier Wynn should and can immediately take action in relation to this unfair reality for Ontarians – but she is refusing. The Provincial NDP is calling this outrageous parking charges on people visiting Ontario hospitals a “tax on the poor”.

    I agree with the NDP’s position on this issue and believe that Premier Wynn must address this very serious concern, as soon as possible.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Alan Powel who started “Fair Hospital Parking Charges” three years ago. Mr. Powel’s energy and commitment to this important issue will eventually result in a reduction or elimination of parking charges for patients and their families in the future in Ontario.

  4. Don Smith says:

    Perhaps one should look at what has been changed on all hospital parking lots in The region of Niagara The supervisor is now charging parking for those with handicap so now beside the parking permit on the dash board there must also be a parking slip parking permits

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