Hospitals still charging more than €10 a day despite pledge to cap car parking
Several cash-strapped hospitals are continuing to levy high car parking charges on patients and visitors despite promises fees would be capped at €10 a day.
It emerged last year that hospitals were to be told to introduce discounted multi-day passes for relatives, guardians and friends who frequently visit patients in long-term care. However, progress is slow and hospital car parks will still take €23m this year.
It had been suggested hospitals could include a consecutive two-day car parking pass for €10, a five-day pass for €20 or a 15-day pass for €35.
Hospitals will also be asked to introduce car parking passes enabling visitors to park on 10 separate occasions over three months.
It followed a review report on the unpopular charges which ruled out their abolition, but called for regulation.
An Irish Independent survey has found several hospitals continuing to charge more than €10 a day.
The highest daily charges are at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda (€20), South Infirmary Hospital Cork (€14), St James's Hospital Dublin (€15), Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin, Dublin (€10.50), University Hospital Kerry (€12) and Cork University Hospital (€15).
In response, the HSE said the review report on hospital car parking charges was still under consideration.
"The HSE is engaging with the hospital groups in relation to detailed implementation plans and schedules.
"The projected income from hospital car parking charges currently is approximately €23m per annum, which goes to the cost of developing and running the car parks."
The review found it would be too costly to eliminate all parking fees. There are also concerns people who are not visiting hospitals might take advantage of the free parking.
The report notes there are nine hospitals where there is no charge for parking and other hospitals have existing capped daily rates.
It also notes some hospitals offer the first 20 minutes free and charge only after that time has expired.
Other hospitals charge flat hourly rates while others increase or decrease the hourly rate depending on the length of the visitor's stay.
The HSE has previously said: "Car park charges were introduced as part of a series of measures to ensure that the cost of the provision of such services was not taken from a hospital's operating budget.
"The income generated from paid parking is an important stream of funding to hospitals to ensure continued provision of health services."
Several hospitals have outsourced the running of the car parks to private firms.
The Irish Cancer Society is among the charities campaigning for free parking for patients undergoing cancer treatment. It wrote to all seven hospital groups and private parking operators to ask that cancer patients and their families are treated with compassion and care when dealing with the issue of car parking.
At one point, some cancer patients were being faced with bills of up to €63 a week in car parking charges.
A petition asking for free car parking for cancer patients was signed by more than 5,000 members of the public.
On foot of the campaign, the South Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Cork reduced its charges to no more than €5 a day for cancer patients.
Other hospitals that provide free car parking to cancer patients include Mayo University Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital Galway, St Luke's Hospital in Dublin, University Hospital Kerry and Wexford General Hospital.