Pay parking is a multi-million dollar gig at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Between April 1, 2017 and March 31 of this year, the Fraser Health Authority raked in $4,546,000 in pay parking revenue at Surrey Memorial Hospital. And from April 1, 2018 to Oct. 18, it took in $2,487,000.
Since 2011, pay parking at SMH has generated a whopping $31,370,000 and at all the FHA hospitals combined — wait for it —$105,680,008.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said the city will ask the FHA to remove pay parking at SMH in line with its decision to make parking free on neighbouring city streets. Last Monday night council ratified its campaign promise to remove pay-parking on the streets immediately outside the hospital and implement free two-hour parking.
“We’re going to try to convince them,” the mayor said after the Nov. 19 council meeting. “The parkade is the regional health board’s land and we will talk to them and try to convince them to provide free parking also. But ultimately that’s up to them to decide whether they will or not.”
Jacqueline Blackwell, public affairs consultant for the FHA, told the Now-Leader on Friday the authority has not yet been approached with such a request. “We have not been contacted by the City of Surrey,” she said.
Surrey Memorial Hospital is the authority’s most significant cash cow when it comes to on-site pay parking. But millions of dollars are piling in from other hospital’s in this region, too. By comparison, between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, Abbotsford Regional Hospital took in $2,215,000 in pay-parking revenue, Royal Columbian Hospital took in $1,983,000, Burnaby Hospital, $1,466,000, Surrey’s Pattison Outpatient Centre, $1,290,000, Langley Memorial, $893,000, Ridge Meadows Hospital, $816,000, Chilliwack General Hospital, $372,000 and Peace Arch Hospital, $140,000.
The City of Surrey operated 103 on-street pay parking spots in the immediate vicinity of SMH while Fraser Health or private companies operate 2,041 off-street parking spaces. It costs $4.25 for the first hour of parking at one of SMH’s 1,790 stalls and $3.50 per additional hour. If you’re parking in one of the Surrey Medical Arts Building lot’s 87 stalls, you’ll pay $3 for the first hour and $2.50 for each additional hour. Parking in one of Surrey Health Sciences lot’s 185 stalls will cost you $2.50 per hour, and SMH has 43 Creekside lot stall that cost $3.75 for the first hour ad $3.25 for each additional hour.
“Surrey Memorial Hospital has the highest parking revenue for a number of reasons,” Blackwell said. “As one of our main regional centres, it has the most parking stalls available through three parkades and a number of surface lots. In addition, the parking revenue totals also include revenue from peripheral sites that make up the broader campus, such as the Shirley Dean Pavilion, Charles Barham Pavilion, and Laurel Place.”
Meantime, Blackwell outlined some reasons why pay parking is in place at SMH. Besides, of course, the significant cash it brings in.
“As our hospitals are often centrally located, their parking spaces are very sought after. Paid parking at hospitals discourages customers and employees of surrounding businesses from parking at our sites, so these stalls are available for patients and their families,” she explained. “Parking rates also encourage stall rotation to ensure patients have access to parking at all times.”
She said money generated from parking fees covers “operating costs to provide safe parking, such as lighting, security patrols and repaving” and “any additional funds are reinvested into health care programs and services.”
Prior to the election, McCallum told the Now-Leader his Safe Surrey Coalition’s reasoning behind the move to free parking at the hospital. “When you go there you’re under stress or tension because you’re going to visit loved ones or members of your family that is sick and the last thing you need to do is to reach into your pocket and try to find some money to do a parking metre,” he said.
Blackwell said Fraser Health appreciates “that some people may struggle to pay for parking, especially when they are dealing with long-term illness.
“For this reason, we have a hardship process to waive fees where it poses a genuine challenge to patients and families,” she said. “Most sites have a variety of pay options to accommodate different types of patient visits, including daily, weekly and extended stay rates as well as subsidized rates for those with financial need.
“In addition, parking vouchers or fee waivers are often made available through the relevant medical program for patients who must make frequent trips to hospitals and clinics, such as hemodialysis and chemotherapy patients.”
Blackwell said parking revenue has increased over the past several years for a number of reasons. “During that time, we have opened new pay parking facilities, such as the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre, Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, the Surrey Hospital critical care tower, and the Surrey Memorial Hospital north parkade.
“We have also expanded the surface lot parking at many of our existing hospitals, such as Burnaby, Eagle Ridge, Ridge Meadows, Surrey Memorial, Peace Arch, Langley Memorial, Abbotsford Regional and Chilliwack General,” she said, “to keep pace with the escalating parking demand.
— with files by Amy Reid