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Revealed: The millions received in NI hospital car park fees

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Paula Bradshaw

Paula Bradshaw

Paula Bradshaw

Nearly £8m has been generated in hospital car parking fees by our five health trusts during 2019-20, latest figures have revealed.

Belfast Trust raised the highest amount at £3.2m followed in joint second place by the Northern Trust and South Eastern with £1.65m.

Both Southern and Western Trusts each generated £0.7m.

The total of £7.9m was disclosed by Health Minister Robin Swann in an Assembly question tabled by DUP MLA Alex Easton.

In January the Belfast Telegraph revealed Northern Ireland's five trusts raised £15m between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

Over £2.8m of that income related to three trusts who charge staff to park their vehicles. These latest figures has prompted calls for the costs to be reviewed.

In response, a number of trusts have stressed the revenue from the charges pays for the cost of maintaining and securing the facilities.

Paula Bradshaw, Alliance MLA for South Belfast, said the health authorities should consider making those who work for the health service exempt from car parking charges.

Three of our trusts - Belfast, South Eastern and Southern - charge staff for parking.

The Stormont health committee member said: "The pandemic has shown how much we rely on and must value people who work for our trusts and ultimately for us.

"Asking them to pay out of their wages, differential parking charges dependent essentially on the lottery of where they happen to work is only further penalising key workers who are already among the lower paid."

Ms Bradshaw continued: "Those who are on the frontline, doing work and providing services vital to our health and wellbeing, often working on shifts when other forms of transport are not viable, should not be further penalised.

"We should use this opportunity to provide free car parking to key workers at all times."

A spokesperson for the Southern Trust told the Belfast Telegraph the majority of its hospital sites are "free of charge for staff, patients and visitors", adding that during the pandemic parking charges have been exempt "for everyone using our hospitals".

"Income generated from car parking charges is used to pay for the significant costs associated with the maintenance and security of hospital car parks," he continued.

"Without this income, funding currently used to pay for the care and treatment of patients would have to be diverted to keep car parks operational.

"Concessionary parking is also available for those eligible, for example patients attending for chemotherapy or relatives of intensive care patients."

Belfast Trust also said parking income is used to meet the "operational and maintenance costs of the car parks where charges apply".

"Any remaining income contributes towards the cost of maintaining car parks for patients, visitors and staff on trust sites where charges are not currently applied," it said.

Meanwhile, the South Eastern Trust said other patients may qualify for exemptions through a process undertaken by ward managers. The Northern and Western Trusts had not responded to a request for comment at the time of going to press.

Belfast Telegraph