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The Society is calling for free or subsidised parking for all cancer patients receiving treatment. Earlier this month, it contacted every hospital that provides cancer treatment in Ireland and found no difference between the 2016 and 2017 rates.
Instead, during 2016, while cancer patients were struggling to pay crippling parking costs, the revenue raised from parking at all but four cancer hospitals increased. Last year, hospitals that offer cancer treatment raised almost €18.75 million in car parking fees, up over €4 million on 2015.
Mr Donal Buggy, 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 are 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. We want politicians and the HSE to acknowledge the financial impact of hospital parking on families and we need to see real action to address it.”
Individual hospitals have the authority to abolish charges for cancer patients and a number of hospitals around the country including Mayo General, Portiuncula, Wexford General and St. Luke’s Rathgar, have arrangements in place that mean cancer patients can avail of free parking.
The Society is asking individual hospitals to abolish parking charges for cancer patients going through treatment, but has emphasised the need for a national policy on car parking that treats patients with “care and compassion”. Currently, no uniform national policy on car parking exists, it has pointed out.
Mr Buggy said: “There is no national policy on car parking aside from agreement from hospitals on maximum daily fixed parking charge. This makes no difference to patients forking out €15, €20 or even €40 for a day long stay. The HSE now need to step up and put in place policy that supports cancer patients and their families at a time when they’re faced with a multitude of other charges.”
The Society has also written to all city and county councillors asking them to put down motions at their next Council meeting calling on their local hospital to introduce free parking for cancer patients.
“This will need cross-party support and we’re asking politicians from all parties to get behind the initiative. We’re also asking the public to get involved by supporting a petition to ‘Park the Charges’ and to raise this issue with their local representatives,” said Mr Buggy.
The Society has issued a set of draft guidelines, similar to those published by the NHS in the UK, to the HSE for consideration. However, it has yet to receive their views on this matter.
The charity has expressed hope that the HSE will commit to meet and discuss its proposed guidelines in the near future.
To sign the Irish Cancer Society’s petition to ‘Park the Charges’ and for full details of the campaign, visit: https://www.cancer.ie/advocacy/current-campaigns/park-the-charges