KOTA KINABALU March 4, 2012: The statement made by Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Edward Khoo that the Health Department would review its policy of not charging parking fees at public hospitals in Sabah, has received mixed reaction from members of the public.
Although some have expressed unhappiness, most have responded positively to the announcement with the proviso that a reasonable fee would be charged by the government.
A student nurse, Rahinan Jumin, who underwent practical training at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital 1 (QEH1), suggested a RM2 parking fee per entry as reasonable.
She said a parking fee on an hourly basis would unnecessarily increase the burden of the people who go to the hospitals for a particular purpose.
“A hospital is a place for the sick, the elderly, the poor and the pensioners to obtain treatment and those confined as in-patients would be visited or looked after by friends or relatives who would come in their own transportation as they have to carry personal items and they will certainly require a proper and safe area to park their cars.
“A good parking space will need proper and ample maintenance and it is for reason that the hospitals will require funding to maintain the service.
“However, it does not mean to suggest that the hospitals are venues for parking concessionaires or operators to make money out of the public. The fee must be reasonable otherwise the public will not cease complaining,” she said.
To Rasmiah Kamin, charging a parking fee at public hospitals is a positive move to overcome the congested parking space, especially at the QEH1 where vehicles are parked illegally due to the shortage of parking lots.
Rasmiah related her experience when visiting her sick relative at the QEH1 when she had to park her car by the roadside or even at the roundabout during visiting hours.
“I have been issued with a summons by the police but what option did I have?
“The spaces in the two-storey car park at the QEH1 are reserved for doctors, hospital vehicles, ambulances and some low ranking staff.
“The review of the policy will be effective towards overcoming the parking woes and I am willing to pay for as long there are space for visitors,” she added.
Kennech Ng, a businessman from Luyang said charging a parking fee would be a good thing in order to overcome congestion.
“Every hospital in the city face with the problem of parking space. The QEH1 does not have enough parking space while the QEH2 is faced with a cracking car park.
“Don’t even talk about the parking problem at Klinik Kesihatan Luyang.
“When we complain about the parking problem at hospitals in the State, the government have always given the people the same timeless old excuse – no allocation.
“So, why don’t the people pay for parking and the hospitals provide us with the best service. This is not about making money but for convenience,” stressed Ng.
A retiree, Barnabas Sokial, 60, said charging a parking fee at public hospitals may eventually impose a burden on the patients and their families.
He however opined as and when the fee would be imposed, the parking area must be safe, secure and good.
He said the fees must be reasonable and not just another gimmick to burden the people on the pretext of upgrading service.
Naslinah Olen opined that to impose a parking fee at hospitals in small town areas as illogical.
This mother of two said the government should weigh all options and take into consideration the fact that parking is not a problem in smaller towns of the State..
“We go to the hospital to obtain treatment and not for entertainment. It is the government’s responsibility to render the best medical service to the people, not to make money out of them.
“There are other places where they can charge the public for parking but not at hospitals. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Naslinah.
Another housewife, Harnani Wazhry echoed Naslinah’s sentiment, adding that apart from hospital, the government should not imposed parking fees at schools.
“Our government must look at the most basic things that they are obliged to give to the people and as a tax payer, I will be extremely disappointed if they don’t,” she added.
Meanwhile, a former people development leader Henny George, 53, pointed out that now is not the right time for the Government or the Health Department to impose parking fees at the hospitals throughout the State.
“If we view the present economic scenario which has been reported by the media as expected to grow, the government should give their attention to other issues pervading the State rather than simply to review this matter,” said George of Penampang.
George further said a lot of people in Sabah are underprivileged and living in dire poverty who should be attended to by the Government.
Austin Ajang, 39, of Menggatal, expressed the opinion that the Health Department should not impose parking fees at public hospitals because it would unnecessarily burden the people.
“If they want to implement this policy in the town areas, I think it is acceptable but not at the hospitals,” said Ajang.
A parking attendant, Azahari Musa, 27, supported the idea but urged the government to impose an affordable fee.
“If a member of a family is admitted to the hospital for two or three weeks, not only will they have to pay for the hospital fees but also parking fees.
“We must understand that not everyone who comes to the public hospital are rich,” he pointed out.
The proposal to review the policy of providing free parking at government hospitals has received negative feedback from the public.
One of the visitors when met outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital I, said a moderate parking fee should be acceptable to the visitors as long as finding available parking space is no longer a hassle.
“What is important is that there must be ample parking space so that everyone can park his or her vehicle immediately and not having to wait for hours, driving around the parking lots before motorists can park their vehicles.
“Sometimes people are in an emergency and often just double park by the roadside, and when they come back there is a City Hall’s parking ticket on their windshield,” said Norashiqin Amli, 28.
Saniah Aminullah, 58, also accepted the proposal to review the free parking policy, saying she would rather pay for parking than wasting her time waiting for available parking lot every time she visited the hospital for her check-up.
“Today is OK, there are not many cars around so it’s easy to find parking. But during weekdays, you wished that you didn’t drive, which is why I usually have my son to drop me off and pick me up every time.
“If there is justification for the fees, so that they can use the money to provide more parking space, then I think everybody will be happy with it. Of course, the rate must be fair, don’t charge too high. This is a hospital, not a bank,” she said and suggested a fee of between RM1 to RM2 per entry should be tolerable to visitors.
Other visitors interviewed at the hospital, as well as those at Hospital Likas, expressed similar views.
Former teacher Lee Chye Ewe said the government should think carefully before implementing the proposal as imposing parking fees at hospitals is an unfriendly move, making life difficult for the patients and their families.
“Whatever excuse one might give for such a move is certainly going beyond basic consideration. To some, parking fees might generate some revenue but it is not substantial enough to make a contribution. Even if it does, it must never be practised. Furthermore government hospitals are supposed to provide free medication and services.
“It is also a wrong move to attempt to keep digging into people’s pockets instead of finding other ways to increase the state revenue.
“The people are already burdened with all kinds of price hikes and they are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Therefore any attempt to add to the people’s burden is certainly not welcomed,” he said.
Accounts clerk Madam Yap also disagreed with the proposal, saying it was a ridiculous and nonsensical decision as those who are seeking treatment from government hospitals are from low income group and are poor.
“For sure they do not have enough money to pay for medical fees and prefer local hospitals rather than private hospitals or clinics.
“The government should think carefully before implementing such silly proposal and do not burden the people anymore,” she said.