St Luke's General Hospital already provides free car parking for people being treated for cancer and other patients in certain special cases, the hospital's General Manager has clarified.
It follows recent confusion over how parking fees at the local hospital are applied to regular visitors, as well as serious criticism from the Irish Cancer Society. The number of patients attending St Luke's has increased in recent years, and the hospital earned €500,000 last year from parking.
Earlier this month, the Irish Cancer Society slammed the hospital for what it described as 'crippling' parking charges for patients attending cancer services. The organisation then wrote to Kilkenny councillors asking them to introduce Notices of Motion at council meetings to bring in free parking for people in such circumstances.
On Monday, local councillors agreed to write to St Luke's management to ask that efforts are made 'to ensure free car parking for oncology patients and designated family members or carers during their treatment'. The Notice of Motion was in the name of David Kennedy (Sinn Fein), Maurice Shortall and Tomas Breathnach (Labour Party), Andrew McGuinness (Fianna Fail) and Pat Dunphy (Fine Gael).
However, local councillor Breda Gardner (Independent) informed the meeting that she had received clarification from the hospital's general manager Anne Slattery this week indicating that the hospital already provides this facility.
The correspondence, seen by the Kilkenny People, says that St Luke's facilitates free parking for patients 'in receipt of regular oncology treatments at the oncology unit on site'. An arrangement is in place with the oncology ward and the security office in relation to patients who are issued special parking passes.
Ms Slattery says that where 'exceptional car parking cases' are brought to attention, they are viewed 'in a considerate way based on the circumstances'. Furthermore, the hospital also participates in the Irish Cancer Society's voluntary Care to Drive programme.
Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick said he had recently been at the hospital and encountered a lady, whose husband is ill with cancer, who was unaware of the free parking policy. He said he thought that Ms Slattery and hospital management should perhaps advertise it a little better.
The carpark is over capacity two or three times a week, and plans are currently being made to develop more spaces. More set down parking spaces are being created towards the front of the new north entrance to the hospital, to enable patient drop-off.