Was it reasonable to pay $11 for parking to visit my grandchild who was a patient at Lurie Children’s Hospital this fall? That was the special rate, validated by the hospital. At the time, I was too upset to think about having to spend so much to visit someone I loved. But since my husband’s recent hospital stay and subsequent medical visits, I’ve been thinking a lot about charging for medical parking.
Visiting my husband during his recent Evanston Hospital stay turned out to be a very costly experience. The day of surgery, I was there for over 12 hours and ended up paying $20 for the privilege of exiting the parking structure. I didn’t think to ask if there was a special rate for a spouse visiting for a long stretch of time. The next day I asked and was told I did qualify for a reduced rate of $4. Why wasn’t this mentioned anywhere in the huge volume of paper the hospital gives a family? When I asked for the validated parking, the person at the desk shrugged, filled out a form with the room number and hours of my visit, and acted like I was lucky he let me have the special rate.
Recently, I had to take someone to the emergency room of Evanston Hospital. After dropping him off, my next move was to go into the parking structure and find a spot designated for folks using the ER. When we left, I had to search for a booth to validate my ticket and pay $4. Not a huge sum, but does the hospital really need to profit from someone’s emergency?
I know not all hospitals and medical offices charge for medical parking. In fact, I recently saw a doctor at Northshore University Skokie Hospital that offers free valet services with no tipping permitted. That’s part of the same system as Evanston Hospital, but clearly there is no collaboration when it comes to parking fees. At Evanston, the valet charge to drop off someone unable to walk from the parking structure is $8. Unfortunately, the majority of my doctors as well as the hospital in my community charge for parking. And I guess after paying my credit card bill today filled with charges for medical parking, I am feeling resentful.
I do understand that to offer free parking invites people to park in these structures for non-medical reasons. For those folks, I think being charged an even higher rate is reasonable. But if the doctor’s office or hospital can validate that I parked there to receive legitimate medical services or to visit a family member, I think charging for parking is just plain greedy.
Most hospitals these days have pretty fancy lobbies. There are cafes, Starbuck’s, gift shops, and all kinds of special stuff to distract the visitor from the fact that she is there to see someone who is pretty sick or recovering from surgery. Evanston Hospital’s lobby features a self-playing grand piano and art installations.
All of these expensive fixings don’t mean much to me. I rush past them to get to the hospital room, radiology department, or appointment to see a doctor or nurse. We already pay far too much for medical services and hospital stays. Having to pay for the privilege of parking to have an MRI or mammogram, give blood for lab work, take someone to the emergency room, or make a hospital visit is wrong.