Hospital parking charges an unfair expense for patients, says O’Brien

Local Independent councillor, Michael O’Brien has called for new national guidelines to be introduced prohibiting parking charges at hospitals for cancer patients and those undergoing ongoing treatment.

Cllr O’Brien raised the motion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District this week.

Cllr O’Brien said that similar motions have been brought forward in many local authorities and in the Oireachtas.

“I think it is only right that parking charges are waived for cancer patients and those suffering with other long term illnesses. These patients have numerous hospital appointments. They incur substantial expenses driving to and from hospital every week, including fuel, tolls and parking charges,” Cllr O’Brien said.

“The Irish Cancer Society recently carried out research that found that cancer patients can spend up to €63 a week on parking. I think that it is the least that can be done to ease the financial burden for people who are suffering enough as it is.

“It is worth noting that all of these people have already made a contribution to the HSE budget down through the years by paying various taxes. The annual parking revenue from hospital parking charges is €13m, and when you consider the HSE budget for 2018 is €14.5b, that €13m is a drop in the ocean. However, waiving these charges for patients would be a positive step in the right direction.”

Cllr O’Brien commended hospitals that have already waived parking charges, including the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, and said it is now time for other hospitals to follow suit.

“I feel that we as a local authority should write to the minister asking him to introduce guidelines lifting the burden of parking charges for cancer patients and those suffering with long term illnesses,” he concluded.

It was resolved to write a letter to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, requesting new national guidelines for parking at hospitals.

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