Thursday, May 11, 2006


Pay Parking at Canberra Hospitals

So, I was reading the Canberra Chronicle last week, a free local community paper, and I happened across an article relating to the introduction of pay parking at our hospitals. You can read about the plan at the ACT Health Website or see some less glowing commentary at The RiotACT or even see what's being said in the local broadsheet, The Canberra Times or this Editorial in the Canberra Times.

Now, what got my goat (other than the fact that we're being forced to pay at all) was that this is to be "Pay and Display" parking - ie you take a guess at how long you're going to be there, buy a ticket for this amount and then chuck it on your dashboard. This penalises the user in two ways:
  1. You over-estimate and therefore pay more for the parking than you need to; or
  2. You under-estimate, and risk a parking fine.
Either way, the government gets the bucks. So, ticked off TechnoHorror decided to give the government "what for". I sent them the following email:

09 May 2006

Dear Chief Minister and staff,

I am concerned and disappointed to hear about the new arrangements being made for pay parking at Canberra's hospitals. It is difficult enough for people who are dealing with their own illness or that of a loved one without also having to worry
about paying for parking and possibly incurring a fine.

What especially disgusts me is that the proposed parking is to be a 'pay and display' voucher parking system. This means that people have to estimate in advance how long they are likely to stay, a difficult thing to do when dealing with medical appointments and emergencies. If this estimate is wrong, the government wins either way - either the person pays for more parking than they use, or they risk a fine for their parking time running out. I can only imagine the additional stress of attending hospital for a test or procedure and realising halfway through that your parking has run out.

This becomes even more abhorrent when you consider friends and family attending loved ones in the emergency departments or the bedside of a dying family member or friend. What a great gift they could get - to suffer the emotional trauma of such an event and then find a parking ticket as well. I doubt that many parents will have paying for parking on their minds when they bring a sick child into casualty.

Whilst I can appreciate that the government wishes to squeeze every last cent that it can out of the Canberra community, I feel that paid parking at hospitals crosses the line. I think I would be less appalled if the parking was to be paid on departure, and perhaps had a free grace period of one or two hours, similar to that found at the Woden and Tuggeranong town centres. At least this way people would not have a fine hanging over their head for miscalculating a visit. However I can see that the infrastructure and running costs of such a parking arrangement would be more expensive than the 'pay and display' system proposed, and would eat into the government's bottom line.

I look forward to a response to my concerns.I especially look forward to hearing from Jon Stanhope on this matter, although I expect that this will not make it past a mid level lackey.


I never really expected to hear too much in return, especially after the razzing I included in the last couple of paragraphs. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a reply the very next morning:

Dear [TechnoHorror],

Thank you for your email to the Chief Minister. Your correspondence is currently receiving attention.

Kind regards

[Name Withheld] Personal Assistant Office of the Chief Minister

Well gosh, that was nice! What a prompt reply from a government department. Unfortunately, the warm fuzzy feeling didn't last long, coz I got this little buck passer the next day:

Dear Mr [TechnoHorror]

Thank you for your email of 9 May 2006, to Mr Jon Stanhope MLA, Chief Minister, about the arrangements for pay parking at Canberra’s hospitals.

Mr Stanhope has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your email and to advise that, while he notes your comments and concerns, the issues you raise fall within the portfolio responsibilities of Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, Minister for Health. Accordingly, your correspondence has been referred to Ms Gallagher for her attention.

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Chief Minister.

Yours sincerely

Greg Friedewald
Chief of Staff

I figured Greg was far enough up the political food chain that his name could stay in print - I'm pretty certain I've not done anything slanderous or libellous here... (any Lawyers in the audience?)

<--- Jon Stanhope ducks and weaves

Katy Gallagher mysteriously silent... --->

So now I wait, probably to get a similar sort of brush-off from Katy Gallagher. I've heard all the government arguments about this - not enough money, everyone else does it - but it just doesn't wash. SO WHAT if every other state does it? That doesn't make it right. YES the health system needs more money, but there are many ways to do it without further taxing the very people who rely on that system. How about the ACT MLAs reduce their next self-voted payrise by 1% to fund this? That might work a little better.

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