Patients and hospital visitors spending over €8,000 a day on car parking charges
Patients and visitors are shelling out more than €57,000 a week in car parking charges – in excess of €8,200 a day – to some hospitals, new figures reveal.
The unpopular charges are generating millions of euros in income for hospitals and causing hardship for many people who have no other option but to travel to hospital by car.
However, the HSE has issued no guidelines to hospitals, leaving people facing a postcode lottery when it comes to fees.
It also means there is no consistency in the concessions or discounts which hospitals should offer those who have a long-term illness and may need to spend several hours in the car park, an Irish Independent investigation has revealed.
And a growing number of public hospitals have handed over the management to car parks to private firms for annual rent of nearly €2m in some cases.
A survey of fees found daily rate can range from €3 to €15 while the hourly fee can vary from €1.20 to €2.70..
Hospitals justify the charges saying they are necessary to deter motorists who are working or shopping from using their car parks for free at the expense of spaces for patients and visitors.
They also insist the money is re-invested into hospital services as well as the upkeep of the car park.
However, the extent to which the fees are becoming a “tax on the sick” has been highlighted in surveys of cancer patients which showed how they are among a range of hidden costs that can mount up.
A spokeswoman for Cork University Hospital said it received nearly €3m in income from carking parking fees last year. The charges brought in €1.4m for University Hospital Waterford .
Smaller hospitals are also benefiting from the charges which brought in €697,010 in 2014. It also received €1,374 from clamping fees.
South Infirmary Hospital in Cork got €326,749 from its car park while the income to South Tipperary General Hospital topped €341,677.
A spokeswoman for the hospitals said there is significant demand for car parking.
”The efficient management of parking spaces and traffic flow on hospital campuses is crucial to ensure ongoing availability of parking spaces, free flow of traffic on campus and unobstructed access for emergency vehicles at all times”.
She said there also need to be proper use of spaces designated for drivers with disabled permits and proper use of spaces designated as drop-off points near the hospital entrance.”
In the Midlands region, Tullamore Hospital raked in €411,922 while Portlaoise took in €360,426.
University Hospital Limerick which has a daily parking rate of €10 generated €833,644 in income.
A spokesman for St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin which is located in Dublin 4 said its car park is managed by an outside company.”Income from the car park at the campus is ring-fenced to fund future car park loan repayments , repairs and maintenance,” he insisted.
Beaumont Hospital in the north of the city said the car park is managed by a private company which pays it rent of €1.9m .
Commenting on the charges, Justin Moran, head advocacy at Age Action Ireland said older people have highlighted the financial burden it poses.
“As an example we researched and produced a report on the experience of older people of outpatient services in University Hospital Galway.
“Some 68pc said they found car parking charges excessive. A lot of them linked this to the amount of time they have to spend waiting to be seen due to the practice of block-booking appointments.”
Some hospitals are also imposing clamping fees and others are not. But the release charge also varies and can be as high as €120 in some hospitals.
A spokesman for St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin which charges €120 to release a car said it can be appealed and each case is examined individually.
“There were ten full refunds and 24 part refunds in 2014. A total of 414 vehicles were clamped in the course of the year.”
Other hospitals have outsourced clamping to private companies and they keep the fee.
Cork University Hospital €2.70 per hour up to €15.00 max.
Mater Hospital Dublin €3 per hour, €15 for 24 hours
Beaumont Hospital Dublin €2.40 per hour, €9 maximum daily charge
St Vincent’s Hospital €2.50 for first hour, €14 daily charge
Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin €3.20 for first hour, €5 for 1-2 hours, €10 daily charge, €36 weekly rate
Letterkenny Hospital, Donegal €1.20 per hour, €6 daily rate, €15 for one week
University Hospital, Galway €2 per hour, €9 daily rate, €30 for one week
University Hospital, Limerick €2 first hour, €4 for two hours, €10 daily rate
University Hospital Waterford €4 for over 20 minutes up to three hours, €8 from five hours, €20 for five consecutive days
Kerry General Hospital first 20 mins free, €3 for 20 mins to 1 hours, €12 daily rate