A HUGE majority of patients and visitors to the Countess of Chester Hospital have condemned proposals to increase car parking charges by up to 50%.
Told to consult the public before bringing forward plans to increase charges from £2 to £2.50p or £3, the hospital admits the response was a big thumbs down.
The three main complaints were:
Higher charges would make multi-visiting even more prohibitive.
Parking should be free, the same as hospitals in Wales.
The current economic crisis is not the time to increase charges.
The Countess says it needs the money to maintain the car park and also to pay for medical staff, equipment, buildings and other elements of patient care.
One patient protesting about the plans is Jonathan Pearson, 39, who has kidney disease.
Mr Pearson, of Broadway West, Newton, Chester, will soon need dialysis at the hospital three times a week and needs a kidney transplant.
He said: “It’s about sick people having to pay more. The sicker you are the more you pay.
“They have exemptions but that doesn’t help people who are not exempt.
“Funding the local hospital should not come out of sick people’s pockets. That’s no way to run the NHS. I think they have made up their minds but are pretending to listen.”
Last year the parking charges netted the Countess £891,000.
But the hospital stresses it is currently the cheapest in the region compared with a minimum charge of £2.50 at Royal Liverpool University Hospital and £3 at Leighton Hospital near Crewe, although parking is free at most Welsh hospitals.
Charge exemptions apply to patients on specified benefits, disabled badge holders attending an appointment and families of patients in certain units.
Countess spokesman Stephen Winterson confirmed parking charges would be on the NHS Trust’s board agenda “at some point” but that the overwhelming majority of people who had responded to consultation opposed any increase.