In an attempt to make hospital car parks more responsible and less commercial-leaning, the Health Ministry last week instructed hospitals to provide free parking for relatives of patients who have been hospitalized for more than a month, and for parents of hospitalized premature babies.
The rulings are part of a new set of procedures for hospital parking in Israel, published by Health Ministry medical administration head Dr. Hezi Levy.
The rules place restrictions on hospital administrations which, in recent years, have been raising parking fees, putting a financial burden on relatives of patients hospitalized for long periods.
Under the new procedures, payment for hospital parking will be by the day, from midnight to midnight, with no limit on the number of times the car enters and leaves the parking lot during those 24 hours.
It was also decided that parking will be free for up to 30 minutes, instead of the current 20 minute allowance. However, the procedures do allow charging by the hour in exceptional cases, especially at hospitals located in cities where there are expensive parking lots nearby, in order to prevent inappropriate use of the hospital lot by people who are not coming to the hospital.
Under the guidelines, an exemption will be given to one vehicle per family for those visiting patients who have been hospitalized for more than a month, as well as for dialysis and oncology patients and the people accompanying them. This also applies to outpatients who need clinical treatment over the course of an entire month or those requiring treatment at least twice a week.
The exemption will also be given to the disabled, public vehicles, family members of a hospitalized soldier, military vehicles driven by a soldier in uniform, people recommended by the hospital's social service and by special permit from the hospital administration.
However, it was decided to retain the instruction given in January 1995 enabling fees to be charged for parking on the Sabbath and holidays at hospitals where the parking lot is operated by non-Jews.
The prices for hospital parking are under the supervision of the Health Ministry and it has been decided that hospital managements will now need approval to raise prices, even if they are less than the maximal fee set by the ministry.
Currently the highest one-time parking fee at a hospital is NIS 25 per day. However, at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, there is a parking lot belonging to the adjacent commercial center which, under an exceptional authorization, charges NIS 14 per hour and NIS 55 for a whole day.
In February 2010, a dispute broke out at Sheba Medical Center,Tel Hashomer, between the hospital management and the workers of the Magen David Adom blood bank located on the hospital premises. This was over the increase in the price of parking to NIS 20 per day after the introduction of a new payment system, with the blood bank workers required, for the first time, to pay for their parking. The conflict even led to claims, and counter-claims, of violence from the workers and hospital director Ze'ev Rothstein.
The publication of the new procedure is the result of deliberations by the Knesset Public Petitions Committee, headed by MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism ) and undertaken at the initiative of the Israel Consumer Council.
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