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IN A win for people power, the Queensland government has announced it will double the number of subsidised parking spaces at the state’s public hospitals.
The announcement comes after a huge online campaign, largely led by parents in the state’s regions, decrying the $30 a day “price gouging” from parking operators, which opponents said was more than the cost of airport parking in Brisbane.
A change.org petition established by rural health advocate Justine Christensen urging Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk investigate the exorbitant hospital parking pricing imposed by private operators gathered more than 16,000 signatures.
“Our hospital car park fees exceed Brisbane airport parking fees. No one goes to hospital for a holiday, they go to visit loved ones and access healthcare,” Ms Christensen said.
The petition was inundated with stories from family members os sick patients, largely children, who pleaded with the government to do something.
“I have a child with leukaemia and use the hospital on a weekly basis, which sometimes cost me more that $100 a week,” said mother Nicole Jones.
“I’m signing because my son that isn’t even 2 yet has his second cancer,” wrote Cerise Tschirpig.
“We have been coming here for well over a year now and this time around we are living here for months at a time.
“Everyday the father of our child comes to visit after work and parking prices are so high.
“Not even a private hospital charges this much. Please make a change.”
Ms Chrsitensen said the operators were blatantly profiting from sick Queenslanders, many of who travelled to the city for specialist appointments and had no alternative but to pay the $30 daily charge.
“Patients, carers, family and friends mostly cannot afford the exorbitant prices of car parking to either attend appointments, long term care and treatment or to visit and care for a loved one,” she wrote.
“Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Princess Alexandra, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital and the Mater, also Gold Coast University Hospital and Sunshine Coast University Hospital are hospitals that are frequently used by locals and rural folk, many are forced to use these car parks due to physical limitations and access along with time restraints.
“We ask that you please follow NSW and put a stop to profiting from sick Queenslanders (and northern NSW).
Another similar petition started by Ipswich mother Kathryn McGowan gathered 8000 signatures.
In response to the growing campaigns, Health Minister Cameron Dick announced on Sunday that the government would spend $7.5 million over four years to create an additional 100,000 free and subsidised parking for families, patients and carers.
“I know the cost of car parking is a real concern for many patients, carers and their families,” he said.
“Increasing the number of concessional car parking spaces means that many more people and families in need will have access to accessible and affordable car parking.”
Mr Dick said car parking concessions will be made available by each public hospital and health service to patients and carers in financial hardship, those who need to attend hospital for an extended period of time and/or frequently and to those with special needs who require assistance.
In addition, he said all public hospitals and health services have been directed to develop specific policies to address car parking costs.
“I want to ensure we provide greater consistency in how we deliver car parking concessions across Queensland, particularly how we communicate the availability of those concessions to patients, their family members and carers,” he said.
Mr Dick said the additional parking spaces would be available across Queensland from October 1.