Interior Health is losing millions because of free parking rules | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior Health is losing millions because of free parking rules

August 26, 2020 - 7:30 AM

When COVID-19 hit B.C. hard in March, health minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry fought back with new rules on things like safe distancing, hand washing and rules to keep businesses operating.

They also decreed that, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, parking in B.C. hospital parking lots would be free as of April 1 so people weren’t put at risk by having to press touch pads to pay.

READ MORE: Parking will be free at all B.C. hospitals starting Wednesday

But that has come with a cost of roughly $500,000 a month for the past five months at Interior Health’s 10 paid parking sites. So far, that’s totalled $2.5 million.

“When they are collected, parking revenues directly offset operational expenses such as security, utilities, snow removal and general maintenance of the lots, allowing valuable health care funding to go towards providing quality patient care services,” Susan Duncan, an Interior Health communications officer, wrote in an email to iNFOnews.ca.

The health region has five paid parking sites at hospitals in Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton, Vernon and Cranbrook. There are five other sites in Kelowna, mostly for staff, whose parking is also free.

At Kelowna General Hospital, revenues are down by about $162,000 a month.

Early on in the pandemic, usage at parking lots fell as elective surgeries were cut, visiting was restricted and some staff worked from home.

“However, the visitor parkade began filling again in mid-June and the assumption is that many of the vehicles belong to staff who are waiting for on-site parking passes,” Duncan wrote, adding the parkades are not overflowing and there have not been parking complaints from neighbours.

It will be up to the province to decide when, and if, paid parking will resume. It's unclear how the shortfall in funding will be recovered.


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