Where do you draw the line when it comes to user fees at hospitals?
At Rouge Valley Health Centre participants in the cardiac rehab program are upset that the hospital is changing the rules on parking. Whereas it used to cost $8 per day for cardiac rehab patients, it will now double to $16 per day.
This is on top of $500 per year they pay to continue in the program past six months. That $500 does cover access to the hospitals indoor track and exercise machines, but it also covers access to a dietician, stress tests, and other health-related activities. The hospital will likely argue that the $500 covers the exercise portion, but given it charges for the entire program, this would appear to be a direct violation of the Canada Health Act.
Recently Rouge Valley’s cardiac rehab program merged with Lakeridge Health’s program. At Rouge they charge beyond the six month period. At Lakeridge it is covered. The question is, are they also going to merge policies, forcing patients in Durham to now pay for what was once covered?
Under the Canada Health Act, hospitals are not allowed to charge for health services.
The cardiac rehab program is a successful model that dramatically reduces the mortality rate for patients who are coping with heart disease. By placing a fee for these services and doubling parking fees, this discourages patients of limited means from continuing on with the program. With parking, continuing past six months means a cost of $1300 per year. Given many of these individuals are elderly and on a fixed income, this is a hefty price to pay.
For those who come three times a week for cancer treatments, this change in parking fees also means a jump to $52 per week.
The government talks a good line when it comes to preventative care. But if hospitals are going to place considerable obstacles to participating in preventative programs like this, then it will cost us all much more in the long term.
Rouge Valley should not be trying to balance its budget on individuals battling heart disease and cancer.