HOSPITAL trips are becoming less of a financial nightmare for a Catholic single mother-of-three who until mid-last year was paying more than $380 a month in parking fees.
Stafford parishioner of 45 years Lisa Jackson welcomed a victory for the community after the Queensland Government last year promised to invest up to $7.5 million over four years to make an extra 100,000 free car parks and discounted parking spaces at public hospitals.
The Government made the promise after receiving feedback and petitions from the community, including members of the Stafford parish who have worked with the Queensland Community Alliance to campaign for fairer parking at the Prince Charles Hospital.
The Archdiocese of Brisbane is one of numerous member partners of the alliance who celebrated the win on June 10.
Ms Jackson has been involved with the alliance’s campaigns after her father, who was receiving care at Prince Charles Hospital over an 18-month period, died in March last year after battling the final stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
He required hospital visits every two to three weeks and, closer to his death, Ms Jackson and her sister were providing their father with round-the-clock care, meaning they were using the car park up to three times a day.
Ms Jackson’s mother also required hospital visits to treat severe leg ulcers that have her confined to a wheelchair.
“We were spending up to $60 a day in parking costs,” Ms Jackson said.
“Mum and Dad were full pensioners, (and) I’m a single mother raising three kids, so it was not the most ideal situation.”
It was still a nightmare once they eventually found a park.
“Dad had early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and a doctor said a family member should stay (in the hospital) with him to provide round-the-clock care,” Ms Jackson said.
“That was getting quite extravagant.
“We would find a car park, not until fifth level, leave Mum to go down to the hospital to find a wheelchair, go back up to level five to get Mum.
“By the time we get to Dad, half an hour to forty-five minutes would have passed.”
Ms Jackson eventually asked a social worker at the Prince Charles Hospital’s thoracic ward if the hospital offered concessional tickets because of the “ridiculous fees” and was told they provided 15 a month for struggling families.
“But no one told you about them unless you sourced it or had the conversation,” Ms Jackson said.
Since the Government’s decision to make concessional parking more available at public hospitals, Ms Jackson’s parking fees have nearly halved.
“Now that the Government has come in, we’ve had access of more concession available and are able to cut our monthly parking bill down to roughly $180, $200 a month,” she said. “It’s still up there but it’s a lot better than what it was.
“It’s a $200 saving but with that we’ve been able to put back into Mum’s care.”
Ms Jackson is now waiting to see the fruit of Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles’ most recent announcement on April 27, a promise that the Government would fund and build a car park at the Prince Charles Hospital.
“It’s great a small community has finally done something, but I’m always hesitant; you wonder if they’re going to follow through,” Ms Jackson said.
“I’ll be a lot more relaxed once the new car park is built and it goes back to under the government and not private enterprise.”
Ms Jackson praised her parish priest Fr Denis Scanlan for leading “from the front” and supporting the community to rally for fairer parking.
She said it was inspiring to see not only the Catholic Church but other community groups give “a real good push” to the Government for change.
“It just goes to show that when you have people power behind you, you can make a big difference and put a lot of pressure on government to get behind these issues,” Ms Jackson said.
“Now it’s about making the Government hopefully stand firm and see it through.”
Fr Scanlan encouraged Catholics in Brisbane to be involved in the alliance’s initiatives across the archdiocese because “we’re supposed to be, as Catholics, getting out of the churches and meeting people”.
“Certainly it’s not an optional extra – being a Christian means making the world a better place. That means helping everybody share in God’s creation as God intended,” he said.
He praised the laity for being at the forefront of pushing for change in the community.
“From an evangelisation point of view, it’s incredible as it’s giving us a tool to put our social justice and social welfare teaching into action,” Fr Scanlan said.