THE HSE has been urged to regulate car parking charges at the city’s hospitals as patients with serious medical conditions face increasing costs.
The Irish Cancer Society launched a campaign in December 2016 for all hospitals to introduce free or subsidised parking for cancer patients – this was followed by a petition that has since received over 3,000 signatures.
However, the society claimed that while cancer patients were struggling to pay crippling parking costs, the revenue raised from parking at all but four cancer hospitals has increased.
Last year, hospitals that offer cancer treatment raised almost €18.75 million in car parking fees, up over €4million on 2015.
At the eight Dublin hospitals that provide cancer treatment over €8.75 million was raised in parking charges in 2016, with St James’s and St Vincent’s hospitals pulling in a staggering €5.1million between them.
Across all Dublin hospitals it has been estimated that patients could face a bill of €8.86 for an average four-hour stay.
The Irish Cancer Society has now written to all Dublin City and County councillors asking them to put down motions at council meetings calling on local hospitals to introduce free parking for cancer patients.
The move has been backed by Southside TD John Curran (FF) who said that car parking charges represent a huge cost for many cancer patients undergoing treatment at a time of complex needs and financial pressures.
“These people are already facing real hardship with additional costs and large drops in income,” he said.
Deputy Curran said he intends to contact the HSE to secure a “legal arrangement or mechanism between the HSE, hospitals and the car park companies for permits to be issued to patients diagnosed and on a continuous programme of treatment”.
He added: “A decade ago, my own child was a long-term patient at Crumlin Hospital and the hospital facilitated car parking permits – this must be based on patients with a diagnosis and who have an ongoing medical need.”
Donal Buggy, the Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “Patients are telling us that they can’t cope with the cost of parking but the hospitals aren’t listening.
“We have been overwhelmed by the huge public reaction to our campaign to park the charges for cancer patients. This demonstrates the breadth of support for free parking for people being treated for cancer, something that affects thousands of people every day.”
Mr Buggy added: “We want politicians and the HSE to acknowledge the financial impact of hospital parking on families. We need to see real action.”
The HSE did not respond to requests for comment at time of going to press.
REPORT: Andrew Ralph