At my last chemo session a lady was talking about how she was paying $80 in cab fare just to get to each of her hospital visits. That gets one to thinking of the extra financial burdens that are placed on patients and their families and friends. Some of these like loss of wages and uninsured drug costs can be catastrophic.
Because they cannot afford to do otherwise, many people try to continue to work or go without expensive drugs and thereby jeopardize their recoveries. There are other, often less thought of expenses, that can really add up.
Take hospital parking. To illustrate this I pulled together daily maximum rates for the 14 cancer centres in Ontario and show them below sorted most to least expensive.
- Toronto, Sunnybrook -- $23.00
- Toronto, Princess Margaret -- $19.00
- Newmarket -- $17.00
- Oshawa -- $16.00
- Kingston -- $16.00
- Mississauga -- $16.00
- Hamilton -- $15.00
- Barrie -- $15.00
- Ottawa -- $13.00
- London -- $10.50
- Kitchener-Waterloo -- $10.00
- Thunder Bay -- $7.00
- Sudbury -- $6.00
- Windsor -- $3.00
The average is $13.32 per day with Sunnybrook topping the list at an astronomical, just plain mean $23 and Windsor at the bottom with a much more kindly $3. Over a course of treatments this really adds up. Full parking charges, twice a week for six weeks can cost you up to $276 at Sunnybrook on top of the cost of getting your car to the hospital. In addition before treatment started, you probably went to the bank machine a few times to pay for parking while getting diagnostic scans, physician appointments, follow ups, etc. If you are in for a few overnights, I would imagine the higher the rates, the less visitors want to come.
As you can see the higher rates tend to be in the Toronto GTA and larger cities. Many centres will give you directions on how to get there via public transit which does of course avoid the parking charges. There are at least two very serious public transit issues with cancer patients. First treatment often knocks down our immune systems making us highly susceptible to contagious diseases. You have a much larger chance of catching a cold or the flu by adding a trip on a bus or subway to your routine than being in your car.
Second, treatment makes us physically weaker so adding the public transit trip where we could easily wind up standing the whole way can be very draining. A good example is the Toronto subway which can be a noxious place for anyone with physical disabilities. Only 31 of the 69 stops have elevators. Most have escalators but often they only go one way if they are working at all. One trip to Sherbourne station when you have to walk down several long flights of stairs with a wind tunnel effect that wants to take a CFL football player off his feet will demonstrate the the problems quite nicely.
There is another alternative in many areas. The Cancer Society will provide free transportation to and from the centre for the course of your treatments. My experience has shown that it has its flaws but is generally a good system and a donation to the Society will usually cost you a lot less than being gouged by some of the hospital parking rates.