A “people power” campaign is underway in earnest to gather at least 10,000 signatures on a petition to force the State Government to debate the issue of Wyong Hospital parking fees in Parliament.
Member for Wyong, David Harris, said it has been confirmed that fees will be introduced at the hospital, which he has labelled a “sick tax”.
“The public pays for the car park expansion in the first place through their taxes and then they have to pay again to use it,” he said.
Harris said he was worried a similar model would be implemented at Wyong, like what happened at Gosford Hospital, where a $1.9m, five-year lease contract was issued to a private company, Secure, to operate the car park.
However, the State Government’s Hospital Car Parking Fees Policy says parking revenue arising from new capital developments will be used to firstly repay construction costs and any remaining revenue will go to operation and maintenance of the car parks and/or equipment, repairs to access roads and paths, improved lighting and signage and costs associated with ways to encourage greater use of public or non-motor vehicle transport, such as showers for people coming by bicycle or bus.
Harris said: “We are trying to highlight it now and get in fairly early before the improvements at the hospital are finished, because that’s when the fees will come in.
“Obviously, we aim to have zero fees, but at the least, have the fees at the very lowest,” he said.
“Wyong Hospital should remain free because of the poor public transport options, for both staff working shift work and visitors, they shouldn’t have to pay massive parking fees at public hospitals.”
Harris said that, so far, there were 4,000 signatures on his petition, but 10,000 were needed before it could be tabled in Parliament and the matter be opened for debate.
He’s confident that there will be enough signatures to raise the matter in June.
Petitions are available at his office in Wyong.
Federal Member for Dobell, Emma McBride, is also campaigning against the fees and has written to NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, urging him to reconsider his position on the “prohibitive” parking fees.
In part, her letter said: “I do not believe the sick and their families should have to pay commercial rates for parking to access essential health care at our local hospital,” she said.
“The very limited public transport around Wyong Hospital means patients, visitors and staff are forced to drive their cars.
“I have been advised that NSW Health has a cost-recovery model for the provision of hospital parking and I do not believe the $1.9M revenue guarantee to Secure, over five years, as in Gosford, is cost recovery.
“I sincerely hope, on behalf of the Central Coast community, that you reverse your position on parking fees at public hospitals on the Central Coast”.
McBride’s office confirmed on May 13, that there had not yet been a response from the Minister.
Central Coast Local Health District Chief Executive, Dr Andrew Montague, said the $200M Wyong Hospital redevelopment would deliver additional car parking.
“This includes a new ground level car park which opened in November, 2018, providing more than 250 spaces, and more parking will be provided when the new hospital building is built,” he said.
“Once these car parking expansion works are complete, fees for parking will be charged in line with the Hospital Car Parking Fees Policy.”
The policy sets a base rate parking fee and local adjustment rates may apply, so the charges for parking could be different for each hospital where the fees are to be implemented.
Wyong MP, David Harris, said he thought Wyong was an “unusual case because of its isolated location in Kanwal and the lack of public transport, and the policy says that can be taken into account when making the fees”.
In the policy, the rates are: first 15 minutes free; up to one hour $6; one to two hours $9; two to three hours $12; three to four hours $14; four to five hours $16; five hours $18 (the maximum daily fee).
Staff will pay the standard fee of $21 per week, and there will be concessions for volunteers and those with a disabled parking permit, blue pension card, gold DVA card, maroon and yellow health care card, or Centrelink beneficiaries.
Concessions will also be available for ongoing cancer treatment patients or those attending treatment more than twice weekly, daily dressing outpatients and attendees of health education classes.
The fees will be adjusted annually in line with inflation.
Interview, May 13
Wyong MP, David Harris
Media statement, May 10
Central Coast Local Health District
Hospital Car Parking Fees Policy
Media release, Apr 15
Federal Member for Dobell, Emma McBride
Journalist, Sue Murray