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Families hit out at 'added stress' of hospital parking while children undergo cancer treatment

One parent told the report: ‘I feel guilty worrying about money because I’m so happy my children are well.’

Image: Shutterstock/Archer All Square

THE IRISH CANCER Society and Children in Hospital in Ireland are calling for  “unjustifiable” car parking charges to be scrapped or significantly reduced to provide relief to families of children with cancer and other serious illnesses.

A joint report, The Hidden Cost of Hospital Car Parking for Families, found that parking fees were a considerable source of stress for families with children who required frequent hospital visits due to their illnesses.

This has been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, with one parent stating:

“I feel guilty worrying about money because I’m so happy my children are well. The extortionate rates for the car park seem particularly unjust and cruel to families who are already struggling financially and perhaps emotionally.”

The report tracked the standard pricing per hour for hospital car parks in January and February across different regions, finding that Leinster was by far the most expensive.

Per hour in a Dublin hospital, families could pay approximately €2.40 – €2.50, or €7.50 – €10 when paying for a four-hour ticket.

In the rest of Leinster, a parking space cost approximately €2.40 – €4 per hour.

One mother featured in the report has to come from the west of Ireland to access care for her three year old daughter who has congenital heart disease.

She recalls having to pay for parking for weeks on end while her child spent months in hospital:

“It was an added stress having to watch the clock and worry about having the cash to pay for parking, all while you’re discussing something as important as your daughter’s life with the consultant,” she told the report.

“I’ve had to rush out of appointments to get back to the car, as losing just a couple of minutes on the way out for a toilet break could cost you another hour or a clamping fee with on-street parking. Parents of sick children should not have to worry about parking, they have enough to worry about.”

Out of 19 hospitals in the report 13 offered concessions on parking prices for cancer patients, while 9 offered concessions for children.

  • Noteworthy, the investigative platform of The Journal, is currently seeking funding to investigate what systems are in place at Irish hospitals to assist patients, especially those with chronic illnesses- PARKING PRESSURE.

The report recommends that hospital parking for children with serious illnesses should be fully or at least partially funded by the government or HSE and that parking concessions should be widely promoted, easy to understand, and easy to apply for.

It’s a familiar experience for Sinéad Fitzgerald, whose 19-month-old daughter also lives with congenital heart disease:

“I remember paying €35 for parking the first day in hospital – we only found out later from another visitor that we could have gotten a weekly rate for the same money, so communication is also a big issue.”

“I was on maternity leave at the time and my partner was out of work, so that’s a lot of money on top of all the other expenses when your child is sick.”

Another parent featured in the report who’s daughter was twice diagnosed with cancer said that she had to pay up to €32 in car parking charges in a single day.

“My daughter was just a toddler when we entered the world of childhood cancer. During this harrowing time we would use the hospital car parks for long periods, often paying multiple times in a day.”

“We are  hopeful that this report will help policymakers understand the real hidden costs of cancer so that more financial assistance is forthcoming for our families. The cancer journey is hard enough without additional financial stress,” she said.

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