Unlike most of the hospitals around the country, the Society understands that Letterkenny makes arrangements that allow cancer patients free or reduced parking for the duration of their visit. The hospital is highlighted in the Irish Cancer Society’s ‘Park the Charges’ report as being an example of good-practice for its car parking policy for cancer patients.
Elsewhere, cancer patients could be paying up to €63 a week in car parking charges according to an Irish Cancer Society report, ‘Park the Charges’. The report highlights the financial burden of car parking on patients and their families. The Irish Cancer Society says that the HSE needs to issue guidelines to hospitals so that all people undergoing cancer treatment receive free car parking. One cancer patient told the Irish Cancer Society that his family had spent €1,200 on car parking charges while he was in hospital.
Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society said: “Car parking charges represent a huge cost for many cancer patients, at a time of not just physical and psychological stress, but financial pressure. People undergoing treatment are facing real hardship in having to deal with additional costs and large drops in income, and high car parking charges only add to this. We have proposed a set of guidelines for hospitals to the HSE, that, if put in place, would make a big difference to cancer patients.”
Mr. Buggy said: “Our ‘Park the Charges’ Report shows that people receiving treatment close to urban centres are facing the highest parking costs. This is a problem for cancer patients as many have to visit the eight designated cancer centres for individual cancer types in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Limerick. The average cost of parking at these hospitals is €8 for a four hour stay.”
There were significant variations in cost by region, with Dublin hospitals proving the most expensive. On average a four hour stay in a Dublin hospital cost €8.86. Hospitals in Munster had the second highest costs for a four hour stay at €6.70, while costs were lower in Connaught/Ulster at €4.67 and in Leinster (excl. Dublin) at €5.20, respectively.
Mr. Buggy said: “We are asking the HSE to issue guidelines to hospitals, like those that exist in the UK. Introducing free parking for patients undergoing cancer treatment will help ease the burden they face at a time of complex need and financial stress. Our proposals include guidelines around car parking at hospitals that will ensure all people undergoing treatment for cancer are treated fairly, and that will provide for greater transparency in the levying of charges and use of revenue raised.”
According to figures provided by the Society, at the 26 public hospitals that offer cancer treatment, the revenue raised by car parking in 2015 totalled almost €14.5 million, with three hospitals taking in in excess of €1million.
Mr. Buggy said: “While we acknowledge that car parking is a key source of revenue for many hospitals, the excessive rates charged at some facilities place an unnecessary strain on cancer patients and their families.”
In a survey of car parking across the country, the Society found that a four hour stay in one Dublin hospital costs patients €12.80, a charge Mr. Buggy described as “exorbitant”.
“These kind of charges are hurting people who are already vulnerable financially. Discretion is required and we are asking hospitals to adopt practices currently in place at hospitals such as St. Luke’s, Rathgar, Mayo General Hospital and Wexford General Hospital where anyone undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy are allowed free parking. We also welcome allowances made by the likes of Letterkenny Hospital.”
Gerry Carroll, a 56 year old Acute Myeloid Leukaemia survivor from Dublin, spoke of the huge cost of car parking when he underwent treatment. “I stayed in hospital for 115 days, as I was vulnerable to infection during my treatment. During that time, my wife Trish came to visit me five days a week. It cost her almost €1,200 in parking charges alone in that time. That’s a lot of money. If she was able to get free parking, or even a reduced rate it would’ve been a great help to us.”
The Irish Cancer Society currently runs a Volunteer Driver Service that provides transport for cancer patients to and from their hospital chemotherapy treatments, which currently operates at 21 different hospitals nationwide, including Letterkenny General Hospital.
Mr. Buggy said: “This vital and unique service helps provide a lifeline to those without access to transport, who have to travel long distances to appointments and to those who simply cannot afford the cost of travel and car parking costs.”
In 2016 alone, the Volunteer Driver Service has provided 21,350 drives to 1,163 chemotherapy patients, covering over 1,000,000 kilometres. In Donegal, 718 drives totalling almost 55,000km were covered by 36 Irish Cancer Society volunteer drivers.
“Our much-needed service makes a real difference to chemotherapy patients that not only provides peace of mind, but can be felt in their pockets. We hope that the HSE adopt our guidelines on can parking, so we can further help in some small way to reduce financial worries at what can be a painful, tiring and emotionally draining time for many.”
To find out more about hospital parking charges in your area and to sign a petition calling for the HSE to issue guidelines around car parking visit www.cancer.ie/