Credits: SCOTT WISHART/QMI AGENCY
"This is not an issue for me, personally. I can afford to pay the parking. But now they got me upset. As an ex-military officer, when I get something in my teeth it stays there till somebody roots it out. So I will pursue this until my last breath," said Tom Badcock, a cancer patient and retired air force officer.
"The poor people who don't have the proverbial pot to piss in are having to pay for parking when they don't have money to do it. And are people not going to the hospital because the parking fees are so exorbitant?"
Badcock has been in and out of the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's since he was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago. Often, he says, his appointments run long and his parking meter runs out and he gets a ticket.
He always refuses to pay.
He's taken more than one of these tickets to court, where he's been forgiven because the ticketing officer didn't show up. He's also written to the provincial health minister and the hospital's health board to share his concerns with the fees -- all to no avail.
Then, on Tuesday, the hospital introduced a new system where patients have to pay at a booth upon exiting the parking lot.
"I had an appointment there Wednesday. I went over, got my treatment and when I left I said to the young lady, 'I'm just not paying,'" Badcock said. "Well, she was quite flustered and called security."
Security called the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, who claimed they had no jurisdiction over the matter, and sent Badcock on his way.
Badcock says he'll file a lawsuit against Eastern Health on Monday. The lawsuit will argue parking fees are an indirect way of charging people for health care, in violation of the Canada Health Act.
The Canadian Medical Association agrees with him. In an editorial from November 2011, the association wrote: "Using revenue generated from such surrogate user fees for health care is against the health policy objective of the Canada Health Act and could become the subject of a legal challenge."
National Health Service hospitals in Scotland and Wales, facing similar challenges, abolished parking fees in 2008.
The CMA estimates parking fees only account for 1% of hospitals' revenues.
"But how much is it for patients? So how much would you lose if patients didn't have to pay?" Badcock said.
In a statement e-mailed to QMI Agency, Eastern Health said it "has no information to indicate it is in contravention of the Canada Health Act" by charging for parking.
Eastern Health does not charge for parking at all of its facilities, only in places where it needs to protect visitor and patient access to parking space, the statement reads.