Access to Healthcare Services Is Everyone’s Problem

“Cancer patients have been complaining about the lack of parking all day”, the compassionate and understanding admin said to me as I arrived 30 minutes late for my appointment in the Cancer Clinic at the Humber River Regional Hospital.  I had arrived at the campus in time for my appointment but then found myself driving around from parking lot to parking lot, along with dozens of other cars carrying sick people to the hospital, only to discover that every single lot was completely full.  There was literally no patient parking anywhere on the multi-billion-dollar complex.  Again.  The same thing had happened on the day of my previous appointment.  I had paid $120 for a parking pass that was completely useless.  What was I going to do?

As I exited the rear of the complex, I drove past three giant, passive-aggressive signs at the entrances of the three, large, half-full City of Toronto building parking lots that said, “PRIVATE PROPERTY!” and “NO HOSPITAL PARKING!” in bold red letters.  Clearly the city was aware of the problem.  Clearly the city felt it wasn’t its problem.  Driving back around to the front of the complex, I noticed a tow truck on stand-by, waiting like a vulture for a patient to become sick enough or desperate enough to leave an unattended vehicle.

I drove North of the hospital until the city’s unnecessary “no parking signs” in the adjacent residential area ceased to bloom. I passed dozens of cars, many of which had parking tickets for daring to park on a city street near a hospital for too long.  The city was not only aware of the problem; it was also actively profiting from it through parking fines.  When I eventually found a legal place to park my vehicle, the walk back to the hospital took 20 minutes.  I’m able-bodied and in good health.  Most hospital patients cannot walk for 20 minutes to go to and from their chemotherapy sessions.  It’s unthinkable.

The CEO of the Humber River Regional Hospital, Barb Collins, is very proud of the many awards it has received.  It’s unfortunate that none of these awards are related to the very real, lived, patient experiences that have repeatedly been brought to her attention, like this one.  Imagine the negative impact on the health of a cancer patient who has to deal with the frustration and expense of recovering a towed vehicle at the same time as chemotherapy, all because of “not my problem” finger pointing and poor planning for patient parking!  Perhaps if a “fewest patients’ cars towed” award were created the Hospital would actually address the problem and add it to its list of “achievements”, since awards, not patient care, seem to be the executive priority.

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