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Pay parking tests patience at Penticton hospital

Drivers gather around a pay station Tuesday at Penticton Regional Hospital. Interior Health will review its parking equipment in the months ahead and may opt for something more “user-friendly.” - Joe Fries/Western News
Drivers gather around a pay station Tuesday at Penticton Regional Hospital. Interior Health will review its parking equipment in the months ahead and may opt for something more “user-friendly.”
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Interior Health has since June received five public complaints about parking at Penticton Regional Hospital and not one of them was related to the troublesome pay stations that could soon be replaced.

Four of the complaints, basic details of which were provided to the Western News, centred on a wonky change machine located inside the hospital. The machine’s coin acceptor was replaced in October and no further complaints were received. The other complaint stemmed from an inoperable email address for parking services.

But complaints the Western News heard during a short visit to the parking lot Tuesday morning were aimed squarely at the pay stations, one of which boasted a lineup three people deep.

Kim Blevins, an Alberta resident who was at the hospital to visit her mother-in-law, was surprised to learn the machines eat improperly timed deposits and don’t make change.

“If you insert coins too soon, you don’t get a ticket and you don’t get your money back,” Blevins said.

“And my father-in-law, who is 75 years old, (the pay station) frustrated him to no end every day for the last four weeks.”

Louis Thompson, who was at the hospital to visit his wife, said the actual operation of the machines is no longer an issue for him, but “it took a little while to figure it out.”

“I have no problem using them,” he said, “but it’s just a hassle.”

Thompson, who also regularly visits the hospital for blood tests, said his chief concern is the requirement that he correctly estimate how long he’ll be there when he buys his parking pass. The amount of time it takes for him to have a blood test done differs each time, he said, which sometimes results in multiple trips to the pay station while he waits.

“Everybody’s got to get up and go put money in the machine. You figure you can get by on an hour and you can’t.”

Jon Acorn, parking services manager for Interior Health, said the cost of parking and operation of the pay stations are among the most common complaints he hears. He noted, however, that prior to the advent of paid parking in early 2010, it was difficult to find a spot anywhere on PRH grounds.

“Now, since the implementation of paid parking, access to the facility has significantly improved,” Acorn said.

The pay stations, he continued, were the “most functional” available at the time and scored points for their ability to let people pay for relatively lengthy periods of time.

Nonetheless, Acorn said, Interior Health in the next few months will begin a review of its equipment, due partly to public complaints and changing technology, and possibly begin looking for “something a little more user-friendly.”

More user-friendly likely means some sort of pay station that allows people to settle up on their way out for however much time they used. In the meantime, Acorn encouraged anyone with parking problems to let him know.

“If we’re not hearing about it, we don’t know that there’s an issue,” he said.

Parking complaints can be delivered by email to parking@interiorhealth.ca or by phone at 1-855-491-6498.

Revenue from parking at PRH totalled $106,375 in the 2011-12 fiscal year and was “reinvested in direct patient care within our region,” according to Interior Health spokesperson Lannea Parfitt.

 

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