16 Mar 2017

Father starts petition against hospital parking fees

8:35 pm on 16 March 2017

An Auckland man who has spent hundreds of dollars in hospital parking fees to visit his wife and premature son has started a petition calling for the charges to be scrapped.

Alex Dexter, whose baby was born on Tuesday at Middlemore Hospital, said people who were suffering should not be expected to pay to park at hospitals.

Parking at Middlemore Hospital for anything more than four hours costs $20.40 for the day.

By 6.30pm today, more than 10,000 people had signed Mr Dexter's online petition calling for district health boards to rethink how they manage parking.

"I've got to pay to see my son," Mr Dexter said.

"I have been up there every day for the last two weeks and I don't go home until 8 o'clock, and I pay my $20 and I'm off home."

Alex Dexter and his son at Middlemore Hospital.

Alex Dexter says he effectively has to pay to see his son. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

He said he didn't have it as bad as others.

"There's people who are visiting their terminally ill father in hospital for example and they're there for months.

"I knew I wasn't the only one that thought it wasn't fair, and I thought 'stuff it, if no one else is going to do something about it, I'll kick up a fuss and see what happens'".

Mr Dexter's petition has attracted comments from users and visitors of other New Zealand hospitals, saying they were struggling with similar charges.

Sara Wilson wrote that her son had leukaemia and that she had spent hundreds of dollars on parking at Christchurch Hospital, and frequently had to leave him alone while she went to pay to extend her parking.

Teresa Tosi wrote that she spent a "ridiculous" amount parking at Wellington Hospital when her husband was having quadruple bypass surgery.

Wellington Hospital usually charges $10 per day, with discounts on the weekend.

Outside the hospital today, Sally Dryland and her elderly mother Wendy, who uses a wheelchair, were taking a break from their 75th day at the hospital.

Ms Dryland's mother is a long-term patient, which means they can get a parking subsidy. They only have to pay $5 a day, but it still adds up.

"It's made it harder, and it is definitely a cost. I wouldn't say it would stop us from doing what we needed to do," she told RNZ.

"It's the convenience of having it. Where else can you get that sort of parking in Wellington?"

Nurses' organisation backs petition

New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial adviser Lesley Harry said it was backing the petition.

Most nurses would agree that parking at hospitals was a problem, Ms Harry said.

"The cost of parking adds another pressure on nurses," she said.

The organisation supported the concerns about costly charges for parking on patients and staff.

"We accept that there is a cost to providing and maintaining parking facilities, however excessive charges are a direct result of hospital parking becoming a private profit-making enterprise."

Counties Manukau DHB responds

The Counties Manukau District Health Board said they made no money from the carpark at Middlemore Hospital.

The carpark was owned by ACC, which contracted Secure Parking to manage it.

A DHB spokesperson said hospital staff did have the ability to offer free parking on compassionate grounds, and visitors could speak to a charge nurse, who could authorise this.

The spokesperson said the DHB did talk to ACC about the carparking service provided at Middlemore Hospital.

Not all Counties Manukau health facilities have paid parking.

There is free parking at the Manukau Super Clinic, the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit, Pukekohe Hospital and the Botany Super Clinic.