Thursday 21 September 2017

HSE making over €1m a month in car park charges

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

PATIENTS and visitors are paying more than €1m a month in car parking charges at HSE-run hospitals, figures reveal.

The hospitals collected €12m in 2012 in the controversial and unpopular charges, compared with €11.6m in 2011, the HSE's annual report shows.

It comes after recent revelations in the Irish Independent that patients who need to stay overnight in some hospitals are now paying up to seven times more for car parking than they were two years ago.

Parking hikes, which hit patients, visitors and staff have been imposed in most hospitals in recent years in a bid to make up budget shortfalls.

The income of €12m does not include the additional millions of euro in parking fees which are being imposed by voluntary hospitals, which are not run by the HSE.

A survey of HSE -run hospitals found the daily charge varies widely:

* Tallaght Hospital, Dublin – €8.

* Kerry General Hospital – €12.

* Cork University Hospital – €15.

* Waterford Regional Hospital – €8.

* Limerick Regional Hospital – €10.

* Beaumont Hospital – €8.50.

Hospitals have a graded range of charges before reaching the daily rate. Some are not charging for the first 15 or 20 minutes, while others give the first hour free. A visitor attending St James's Hospital in Dublin who is dropping off a patient just gets 10 minutes free.

It charges €2.50 for up to an hour, in contrast to people attending Portlaoise and Mullingar hospitals, who get the first half-hour free.

A €2.20 per hour charge kicks in immediately for people who park in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, where a private company operates the service.

The daily charge in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin rose to €14 in recent years while the charge in University College Hospital in Galway is €8, and it is €10 in Limerick Regional.

DEBT

The HSE leaves it to individual hospitals to set their own charges and the proceeds are to be ploughed back into services. However, some car parks are operated by private companies.

Meanwhile, the HSE's annual report shows that the charges for attending A&E topped €9m last year. The proceeds from the prescription charge for medical card holders rose from €27.6m in 2011 to €29.8m in 2012.

The HSE continues to have a significant bad debt problem due to patients not paying charges for in-patient care. A charge of €75 a night, up to a maximum of €750 in a year applies to in-patients.

However, at the end of last year, €12.5m was still outstanding in public inpatient charges. This compared to €12.9m the year before.

Irish Independent

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