Storm over exorbitant hospitals parking fees

Vehicles drive past MP Shah Hospital's parking lot. [Elvis Ogina/Standard]
Three months after senators flagged out what could amount to extortion of motorists by hospitals in exorbitant parking fees, there is no letup in their stranglehold of their visitors.

Hospitals, malls, airports and some hotels continue to cash in on their visitors as they await on the Senate to slam breaks on the fees.

At Nairobi Hospital, business is brisk and grumbling of Wajir Senator Ali Abdullahi does not appear to have triggered a whiff of note to the hospital administrators.

“I have no comment on that,” Tom Simba, the hospital’s head of Marketing and Customer Service told the Sunday Standard when we sought to understand basis for the fee they charge people checking into the facility.

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Aga Khan and MP Shah hospitals also charge motorists for parking vehicles in their bays. They did not respond to our inquiries.

Mater Hospital in Nairobi’s South B installed the parking system but does not charge clients. Public hospitals like Kenyatta National Hospital do not charge.

“Parking is usually charged because there is a cost to running and maintaining the car parks,” says Ben Woodhams, Managing Director at Knight Frank, a firm that manages Garden City mall and other properties in Nairobi.

Cheaper charges

“In most cases too, such facilities charge cheaper than say what the county charges in the city,” Woodhams adds.

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According to him, the cost also serves to deter mischievous motorists who visit the facilities for the simple purpose of parking their automobiles and proceeding to other businesses.

For instance, at Nairobi Hospital, students in adjacent institutions and their visitors drive into the hospital’s parking yard, park their cars for the day and walk out. In turn, visitors at the hospital would not get space to park their cars.

To mitigate against unfairness of patients being double charged for services, the hospital also exempts from payment patients who have been seen by their doctors or those with admission cases. The exemptions are not however publicised or amplified.

Senator Abdullahi told the Sunday Standard that he is not done with the hospitals yet.

“I plan to reintroduce the matter in the House when we come back from recess, and push it until it becomes a Bill. If they (hospitals, malls, hotels) come up with a self-regulation way that suits the public, I will drop the matter,” said Abdullahi.

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When the matter first came up in the Senate, senators Irungu Kang'ata, Okong’o Omogeni, Fatuma Dullo, Mutula Kilonzo Junior, Enoch Wambua and Moses Wetang’ula supported Abdullahi’s sentiments.

“When you go to Heathrow you do not see anybody paying when they are entering or leaving the airport. However, you have to pay at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and other local airports,” said Wetang’ula.

“I have never seen any part of the world where you bring them business and you are charged. I have travelled to the US and elsewhere, it is not there. This is a ripoff,” said Omogeni.

In June 2018, Nairobi County’s then acting Finance executive Charles Kerich attempted to scare off the hospitals and malls with new levies in his budget speech.

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“Many residents are being subjected to charges in premises such as shopping malls, supermarkets and hospitals. I will propose a fee for all private parking spaces that charge their customers hourly,” Kerich said.

Unfortunately, the proposal did not see the light of day as it was not accepted for inclusion into the Finance Bill for the year. Kerich says the county is not done with the matter yet.

“It did not succeed, but we will have it in the next Finance Bill so that we can plough back the same monies to improving services for Nairobi motorists,” he said.

According to City County Engineer Moses Kuiyak, there is currently no law that bars malls, hospitals from charging parking fees.

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