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REVEALED: Just how much was raised in car park charges at our local hospitals?

Money spent on caring for patients would have to be used to maintain car parks if hospital authorities did not charge.

The argument has been used as part of the reasoning for making patients, staff and visitors pay to park at local hospitals.

Many have described the rates as exorbitant and have been complained of being left considerably lighter in the pocket.

The defence was put forward as Armagh I can reveal the actual revenue taken in.

Motorists using car parks at Southern Trust-owned sites paid out £735,000 for the privilege last year. That covers the financial year up until the end of March past.

And the vast majority of that figure would have been generated at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Armagh I had submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Southern Health Trust in response to ongoing complaints over car parking difficulties and charges at local health facilities.

And the Trust, in supplying the information, defended the pay and parking system operated and explained the need to charge.

Last year the rates rose by 20% to bring it to £1.20 an hour, with 60 pence for each additional hour, up to 24 hours, and £6 in the event of a lost ticket.

In making the case to increase charges it was stated it still represented “value for money” compared to other Trusts.

Revelations of the amount raised will not sit well with many motorists, but the charges are necessary, the Trust insists.

Armagh I was told: “Income generated from car parking charges is used to pay for the significant costs associated with the maintenance and security of hospital car parks (e.g) barrier maintenance/repairs, tickets, CCTV).

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

“Some of the income is also used to improve car parking infrastructure and to provide additional spaces for patients, visitors and staff.

“Car parking charges within the Trust operate under a Department of Health policy, therefore the Trust does not have the discretion to remove car parking charges or take any other action regarding charges unless stated in the policy.”

Work got underway last month on major new changes to car parking at Craigavon Hospital as part of the planned paediatric centre development.

Charges are applied in four car parks at Craigavon, but the majority of parking at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry is free, bar that closest to the main hospital building – just over 100 spaces – which is ‘pay on foot’.

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