By Jaykob Storey 
BELLEVILLE — People using the parking lot at Belleville General Hospital  this week said they are in favour of the Ontario government’s announcement  that it would freeze prices at hospital lots.
“My husband is in and out of the hospital … sometimes for a few days, or maybe a week, and it can get expensive,” said Karen Prowse, 64. “We’re on a pension, and so just $15 a day for a few days a month can be hard. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if he was in for a long stay.”
The parking charge at BGH is $4 an hour, with a $15-a-day maximum. There is also a 30-day pass for $85.
The provincial government’s announcement this week – which included a plan to require half-price five-, 10- and 30-day passes as of Oct. 1 – is “a great idea – very considerate,” Prowse said.
Belleville resident Josh Visser, 26, who was visiting his sick aunt Wednesday, said the price of hospital parking is too high. The $4 an hour at BGH is “fine for short visits, but any longer and it can be a big expense,” Visser said. “Especially if you’re coming from out of town. You have to pay for gas and food, maybe even hotels. And if you’re missing work because of an emergency, that’s more money gone.”
The news has not been met with universal praise. Anthony Dale, head of the Ontario Hospital Association,  said the decision to cut hospitals’ revenues from parking “could not come at a worse time,” adding that operating funds provided to hospitals have been stagnant for the past four years.
Catherine Walker, manager of community relations at Belleville General Hospital, said all of the hospitals in the Quinte area are already largely compliant with the new regulations.
“We have rates that are well below what the Ontario government put out,” Walker said. “I don’t see it affecting our bottom line one bit … We charge a maximum of $15 a day, but we offer a 30-day plan for $85. This averages out to only $2.83 a day.”
While Belleville citizens can’t expect to pay less for hospital parking, they will be receiving some benefits thanks to the announcement from Queen’s Park. The new system will require passes to be usable for a year after purchase, while the currently available 30-day pass at BGH only works for a month. This means that come October, you don’t need to use the pass for 30 consecutive days in order get your money’s worth.