'Making money out of misery'

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2013
Hospital
North Shore Hospital's parking fees set to rise.
Bill Rayner
MAKE IT FREE: Grey Power Auckland zone director Bill Rayner says hospital parking should be free.

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Hospital visitors will soon pay the same parking fees as people attending shows at the Civic Theatre or Aotea Centre.

Out-patients and visitors to North Shore and Waitakere hospitals face a $1 increase to park on site from July 22.

This means that short-term charges will be the same as those at Auckland Transport's Civic car park in the city centre and significantly more than parking in Takapuna's central business district.

Waitemata District Health Board says the changes are a result of "growing cost pressures" and the move better aligns it with other DHBs in the region.

It says proceeds will fund improvements at the two hospital sites and reduce financial pressure on its services.

Grey Power Auckland zone director Bill Rayner says the justification is nothing more than a red herring.

"They are making money out of people's misery."

He says hospital parking should be free, or at least heavily subsidised, for patients and visitors.

"The DHB is meant to be providing a service to people, not running a profit-making exercise.

"Parking is free to commuters at the park and ride, so why can't we have the same at hospitals?" he says.

The new charges mirror those at Auckland Hospital where visitors pay $3 for the first 30 minutes and up to $18 a day. A weekly pass can be bought for $20.

Grey Power is urging the health board to reconsider, Mr Rayner says, and will be putting the issue to candidates running in the local body elections later this year.

"One of the difficulties in this day and age is that everybody is looking to clip the ticket.

"We have to remember the pension is not a lot of money, so it becomes a pretty hefty cost to low income earners. It's using a sad situation to make money."

Taking public transport is a good way to avoid the costs but Mr Rayner says it is not realistic for older and less mobile hospital visitors.

But he says they will not be put off by the increase.

"If a family member is in hospital you're going to visit them even if you have to pay $15 to $20.

"It's not something you feel like you're getting value for money. You don't want to be there and we just feel as though people are being exploited."

Waitemata District Health Board says more than 80 per cent of visitors park for under two hours and so most will only pay around $6.

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Parking is free for the first 15 minutes.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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