Private firms have been accused of “shameless profiteering” after it was confirmed the Scottish Government will pay them another £950,000 to extend free parking at Private Finance Initiative (PFI) run hospitals for the next three months.
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said the fact PFI companies were raking in money from parking during the Covid emergency was “an outrage”.
At the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March, the Scottish Government announced parking charges were being dropped at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary and Scotland’s two other PFI hospitals – Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Ninewells in Dundee – for staff, visitors and patients.
The Evening News revealed the £950,000 cost of suspending the charges was being borne not by Consort, which runs the Infirmary, and the equivalent firms at the other two sites, but by the Scottish Government.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced earlier this week that free parking was being extended until the end of September.
And the Scottish Government has confirmed: “The cost is the same for extending a further three months, and that cost is being covered by the Scottish Government.”
Mr Johnson said: “It is a scandal that PFI companies are making millions from parking during the Covid-19 crisis.
“We all know the advice that we should avoid public transport and therefore driving to hospital is sensible,
“The government’s action which means there is no direct charge on patients is welcome, but companies banking cheques worth millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is an outrage. This is straightforward profiteering and shameful.”
Edinburgh Western MSP and Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton urged the PFI firms to reduce or forego the fees.
“This is an expensive farce,” he said. “That’s nearly £1 million of NHS money not being spent on protective equipment for those on the front line.
“Keeping hospital parking free, particularly for staff, is important given the sacrifice we are asking of them.
“I would ask that those private firms involved consider the national effort against the virus and offer the NHS a significant discount or waive the fees entirely.”
Parking at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary can cost staff as much as £1500 a year. Charges range from £1.40 per hour up to £7.20 for six hours.
Parking charges at other NHS hospitals in Scotland were scrapped in 2008, but the Scottish Government said it would cost too much to buy out the contracts of the PFI companies.
Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said once lockdown was over the government should look at options scrapping charges permanently “to support our amazing NHS staff who are on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus”.
Consort declined to comment.