First off the source of my relief.
My darling granddaughter Flic was admitted to hospital earlier this week suffering from pneumonia. She is now back home and responding to antibiotics, so you can see where the (enormous) sense of relief comes from.
And now for the rant.
Hospital Parking Charges
Flic has not been well for the past week, but as she seemed to be getting worse, rather than better my daughter took her to the doctors on Wednesday morning and was told that the doctor suspected pneumonia and to take her directly to the hospital at Durham.
This is what my daughter obviously did and on arrival collected a ticket from the barrier and was admitted to the car park. The car park is the type where you collect a ticket on entry and then pay at a machine prior to exit which validates the ticket to allow you to get out through the exit barrier.
Now it took time for all the appropriate tests, xrays etc. to take place and results to be checked and all the time my daughter was not only frantic with worry for her daughter, but increasingly stressed by wondering if she would have enough money on her to pay for release from the car park. She let this slip on one of the many calls I made to her to get up to date information about my Granddaughter's condition - and I was able to reassure her that if necessary I would make the 39 mile round trip to give her the money. As it was the hospital decided to keep Flic in overnight as her oxygen levels were low, so the 39 mile round trip had to be made to take supplies for them both into the hospital. As by this time however it was quite late, I was able to park in the 20 minute drop off area - drop off the things and go.
Next morning my daughter rang to say she may have to stay in for another night, so eldest daughter and myself travelled back to the hospital and this time parked up so that we could go in and look after Flic while her mam had a chance to freshen up and get something to eat. My middle daughter was once again worried about the parking charges as by now we calculated they would have run up to £8. Although I was able to reassure her that I would pay them she quite rightly pointed out what would have happened if she hadn't had family to support her. We were very relieved however when the doctor told us that Flic was responding to the antibiotics and could go home without an additional night's stay and it was with a feeling of simple relief that I gave my daughter the required £8 parking fee.
My daughter is a single parent who currently has to survive on benefits though she is currently undertaking an access course so that she can go to University and hopefully build a better life for herself and her daughter. She lives in a rural area that at the best of times is not well served by public transport, so although it's a struggle for her to maintain a car on the road, if she wants to better herself and get to college each day she needs to do just that. Obviously though money is tight and she simply could not afford car parking charges of £4 a day on top of the additional expense in getting to the hospital in the first place and having to buy food from the branded Costa Coffee outlet within the hospital.
My daughter is lucky she has the back up of family that are both able and willing to help her, but I worry for those who do not have this luxury. Goodness knows what additional stress this imposes on people who are already ill and stressed. . I didn't object to paying for my car parking when I went in to help (£3 for 2 hours) and I don't object to paying as an occasional visitor, but I don't think it is fair that those who are in hospital or attending for medical appointments should have to pay these charges, this seems to me a tax on the ill and the vulnerable.
Apparently in 2009 the Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham promised to scrap the fees, for all in-patients and for outpatients who have to make regular appointments, but the coalition says there are better uses of public money than scrapping car parking charges.
Where is this "fair" society that our government keeps telling us about?
Sorry about the rant, and a big thank you to the doctors and nurses who treated our little Flic and got her back on the road to recovery.