May 21 2013 Latest news:
By Emma Brennan
Monday, May 28, 2012
PATIENTS have attacked a decision to increase parking charges at West Suffolk Hospital, making them some of the highest in the region.
From July 1, the cost of parking for up to two hours will go up from £3 to £3.30, and drivers who stay for between two and four hours will have to pay £4.80 compared to the previous fee of £4.40.
The cost of a weekly ticket will rise from £11 to £12, while there are only 20 free, short-stay “drop-off” points on site for people visiting for up to 20 minutes.
The revised charges have been introduced by VINCI Park Services, who took over management of the Bury St Edmunds hospital’s car parks in 2006. The company reviews the charges annually as part of its contract with the hospital.
West Suffolk Hospital communications director Jan Bloomfield said although the hospital board recognised car park charges were never popular, there had been “no outcry” among hospital staff and union members in relation to the proposed increase. However, patients and visitors have described the increase as “greedy” and “unfair”.
Sudbury resident Beryl Smith, 74, who regularly drives elderly friends to clinics at the hospital, said the escalating parking fees on top of the cost of petrol, would make it more difficult for her to help out in future.
She added: “This increase adds another pressure to people who are ill and many of whom are already facing financial burdens.
“The least you will have to pay per visit is now £3.30 and that’s a lot of money for people to find – I think it’s really insensitive to put it up again.”
Another patient, who attends the hospital regularly for cancer treatment but did not want to be named, said: “To offer the first 20 minutes free is an insult because no-one can take advantage of this as they usually keep patients waiting so long to see the consultants. Most people who are unwell are accompanied by someone anyway so are rarely just dropped off.”
She added: “Buying a weekly ticket is not an option because some of the treatment is only twice a week, so that would not make it worthwhile.”
From July, it will cost more to park at West Suffolk Hospital than at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, which offers a £3 per day deal for people attending outpatients’ clinics.
Car park charges on the Colchester General and Essex County hospital sites have remained unchanged since May 2007, where visitors can park for up to two hours for £3.00 and four hours for £4.00.
At Ipswich Hospital, the charge for two hours’ parking is £2.80, with an option to remain for one hour in a short-stay area for £1.50.
Ms Bloomfield said: “We appreciate that car parking charges can cause concern to some of our patients and visitors.
“Although other hospitals in the area will probably also announce parking charge increases at some point this year, we want people to keep coming to our hospital and the board recognises we have to remain competitive in that respect. It is something we will constantly keep under review.”
She added: “We would encourage people who are staying for a short time to make the most of our free drop off points. Those who have special circumstances, or are attending for long-term treatment, should check with ward staff to see if they are eligible for a concessionary permit.”
The hospital provides spaces for disabled drivers, as well as cancer and dialysis patients using the Macmillan and renal units at the back of the site.