One Dublin hospital earned more than €1.5 million in a year charging for car parking.
The Irish Patients Association has described the charges as a stealth tax often imposed on the families of loved ones who are dying.
Figures newly-released by the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) hospital group show it collected more than €3 million from its car parks in 2019.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin alone took in €1,528,920 from its pay and display fees – almost €30,000 every week.
Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Dublin. earned €597,400 from its car park, while Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda took in €401,920.
Also in the RCSI hospital group, Cavan General’s annual car parking charges totalled €220,050; the Rotunda in Dublin made €153,530; while the Louth County Hospital took in €80,140; compared to Monaghan General, where charges amounted to €39,240.
Fianna Fáil’s pre-election manifesto promised free car parking at hospitals, while Fine Gael’s stated it wanted hospital car parking fees to have a daily cap of €10.
Stephen McMahon, director of the Irish Patients Association (IPA), said he was concerned Covid-19 was being used as a “whipping boy” for the Government not to make good on promises to the electorate over the issue.
“For families visiting people who are critically ill, car parking fees could amount to thousands of euro when it is all added up .
“Hospitals may say they have compassionate special day rates, but it is our experience that it is the families who have to approach the hospital about this and it is not the hospitals reaching out to them.
“The IPA has a concern that Covid-19 is being used as a whipping boy for all things that are not happening,” he said. “We have to keep an eye on all other non-Covid activities as much as we keep our eye on the Covid problems. If there are commitments to eliminate car parking charges, then they need to be delivered on.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Ruairí Ó Murchú , who obtained the RCSI figures, said the Government “need to get a move on before another year goes by and more millions are generated in car parking charges at hospitals, extracted from patients”.
Rachel Morragh, the Irish Cancer Society's director of advocacy, said it has been campaigning for reduced car parking rates for cancer patients for five years.
“What is often forgotten when speaking about the life-changing impact of a cancer diagnosis is the financial toll it can take on individuals and families, which for some can be as stressful as a diagnosis itself.”
Three year ago the then minister for health Simon Harris announced a review of hospital car parking charges.
In November 2019, the Health Service Executive (HSE) prepared recommendations for hospital car parking but failed to publish them, although a draft document showed they should to be capped at €10 a day.
Responding to calls in the Dáil on the back of a campaign by the Irish Cancer Society, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he was "certainly sympathetic to the proposal that car parking should be free for cancer patients".
However, he said there “would be an inequity” over people receiving treatment for other illnesses not having charges waived, which “would have to be considered”.
In 2015, a Real Cost of Cancer report found that one of the largest costs incurred during treatment was car parking.
The research found that eight in 10 cancer patients who had to pay them during treatment spent an average of €62 a month.