A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted May 30th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
Well, at least some things are going back to normal.
According to the news release circulated late this May by Niagara Health, the region’s amalgamated system of hospitals, parking fees at all Niagara hospital sites will go back to normal, effective this Monday, June 1st, after being suspended for several weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
So now here we go back to the years leading up to this pandemic when the parking fees are charged for people visiting their loved ones at our hospitals and they just kept getting hiked higher and higher.
Here family members are spending what may be the final days and hours with a loved one struggling for their lives in hospital, and they have to be mindful of digging into their pockets to pay for parking or risk paying a hefty fine or even having their car towed away.
And it is not really fair to blame Niagara Health for that because hospital systems across Ontario and across the country have found themselves having to charge fees for parking and other services at hospitals to make up for the fact that, year after year, successive provincial and federal governments have been cutting back on funding for hospital systems and other health care services.
The cuts to health care, including hospitals, and rise of parking and other user fees are a function of governments responding to call after call from citizens over the past two or three decades for further cuts to income taxes.
And what we finally need to get through our collective heads as a country is this. When we cut incomes taxes, which is arguably the fairest way to tax citizens because it is based on one’s ability to pay, governments then have no choice but to make up for the loss of revenue from income taxes by cutting services or raising user fees or, more typically, by doing both.
And who gets hammered the hardest when a public body like a hospital turns to user fees to make up for the loss of funding from income taxes. The answer is people at the lower ends of the income spectrum.
Just as an example, the parking fees at a hospital are far less of a burden to, let’s say, a member of the Weston family, which owns one of the largest grocery store chains in Canada and that flies their profits off to out-of-country tax havens, than they are to someone trying to get by on a minimum wage.
We should all start to think about this as we make decisions about who we want in political leadership in Ontario and Canada, and how we want to possibly reshape our system of government our communities coming out of this pandemic.
If we want a “new normal” for so many of these matters, from proper funding for health care, to protecting our environment, we are the ones who are going to have to fight for it.
In the meantime, here is a segment that the CBC program Marketplace did on hospital parking fees a few years back that you can watch by clicking on the screen below –
Finally, here is the News Release that Niagara Health circulated late this May on bringing back parking fees at its hospital sites –
Niagara Health resumes parking fees on June 1
A News Release from Niagara Health, Niagara’s amalgamated system of hospitals
Beginning Monday, June 1, parking fees will be reinstated at all Niagara Health sites for members of the public, staff and physicians. Temporary free parking began on April 1 as part of Niagara Health’s COVID-19 response.
“As we work to gradually reintroduce clinical services, we are resuming normal parking operations across our sites,” says Angela Zangari, Niagara Health Executive Vice President, Finance and Operations. “We would like to thank the community and our team members for their understanding and support during these unprecedented times.”
Members of the public will return to using the gated parking systems at the St. Catharines, Greater Niagara General and Welland sites and the pay and display systems at the Port Colborne and Douglas Memorial sites.
Patients entering our sites are reminded to clean their hands upon entrance and throughout their stay, including before and after using parking kiosks. Physical distancing must also be practiced while at parking kiosks.
Parking rates will be the same as they were before the temporary free parking measure. For parking rates and other information, please visit NiagaraHealth.on.ca<https://www.niagarahealth.on.ca/site/parking>.
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