A GOLD Coast lawyer has renewed calls for free parking for all patients and hospital users on the Gold Coast.
Bruce Simmonds, of Broadbeach law firm Parker Simmonds Solicitors & Lawyers, said the cost of parking at the Gold Coast University Hospital was “cruel” and exploited vulnerable people who needed medical attention.
Mr Simmonds, whose clients include hospital patients struggling with the parking costs, said the recently announced parking discount rates which came into effect at the weekend were a token measure at best.
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The new rates provide eligible patients and primary carers a discount of $5 off the maximum daily parking rate of $16.50 – a discount of roughly 30 per cent – at the Uni Hospital and $2 off the daily rate of $5 at Robina.
Mr Simmonds said the so-called discounts were “pathetic” and only applied to a narrow group of users.
“Hospital parking charges on the Gold Coast are cruel and disadvantage the very people who need to go there for care and treatment,” Mr Simmonds said.
“Hospital parking should be free. Simple as that. This so-called parking discount is just a cheapo PR stunt.
“… a very mean-spirited con job by the State Government pretending to care about the outrageous costs of hospital parking, then making people jump through hoops for a pathetic discount with the added hassle of a long convoluted process to actually get the discount.”
Mr Simmonds said the parking charges were “basically a hidden tax” used to supplement the income of the government-run hospitals the same way parking at airports act as a revenue raiser for airport companies.
“Our public hospitals are paid for by the community for the benefit of the community … parking fees are merely a money grab,” he said.
“They’re a rort against hospital patients and the vulnerable who may need hospital services but can’t afford to pay for private specialists.
“We need a community-driven campaign here to force the government to provide free parking.”
The new discounts are only available to patients who need to attend hospital two or more times a week for specialist treatment, or those requiring an extended stay.
Patients needing palliative, coronary or intensive care, children’s critical care, rehab, cancer, haematology, renal dialysis and newborn intensive care can also apply.
“The discount parking does not apply to ‘ad hoc’ or infrequent visits to the hospital that do not meet at least one of the eligibility requirements,” Mr Simmonds said. “It’s only for those who visit more than twice a week.”
“So Seniors attending outpatients every week get nothing. This is a mean-spirited attitude and the State Government should be ashamed of itself for such a miserable discount.”
Those wishing to apply for the discounted rates are required to fill in an application form and submit it to the relevant ward clerk, social worker, inpatient department or nurse unit manager.
Once approved, claimants at the Uni Hospital will need to present the application to the front reception desk in order to collect a single-use follow-on ticket.
That ticket is then inserted at the auto pay station after the parking ticket so the concession rate can be applied.
Patients at Robina will have to present their completed form to the parking office or reception to get their parking ticket validated before paying.
Mr Simmonds said the overly bureaucratic procedure would deter many from wasting their time – and incurring increasing parking charges – while they got their forms stamped and authorised.
“We act for victims of car accidents and work accidents who are treated at the hospital,” Mr Simmonds said.
“The insurers pay large sums of money to the hospitals to subsidise the patients but still they want more blood from them and use hidden charges such as parking fees.
“Our hospitals are no better than the airlines with their extra baggage and fuel charges.
“What’s next? Will the hospitals charge extra for patient meals and coffee?”