Almost £2m has been reaped in car parking charges at hospitals in the Southern Trust - of which almost £75,000 is paid by staff.
The shocking statistics are ‘tantamount to a tax on the sick’, says Independent Cllr David Jones.
Cllr Jones, who sits on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, said: “I have always been opposed to hospital parking charges.
“I consider the total amount of £1,929,133 of which £74,876 is derived from staff parking in the Southern Trust is clearly wrong.
“While it is stated by the Trusts these monies go back into the hospitals we have no detail just where the money is spent.
“I believe we have a right to know to allay fears it is used to prop up salaries of managers rather than patient care.
“We must remember when introduced by the then UUP Heath Minister it was said hospital car parking charges would help deter those working in other areas close to hospitals from enjoying free parking.
“Of course Trusts jumped on the bandwagon.
“I do not believe for one minute many people parked at Craigavon Area Hospital for free to go to work in other places. There aren’t any near by.
“I call upon Trusts in general and the Southern Trust in particular to stop parking charges and to give a breakdown of how the money was spent.”
The Southern Trust said there is ‘no compulsory charging for staff’.
“There are voluntary pay car parking schemes for staff at both Craigavon and Daisy Hill Hospitals and the charge to staff for one of these spaces is £30 per month.”
It said income from car parking charges pays for maintenance and security of hospital car parks, adding: “Without this income, funding currently used to pay for the care and treatment of patients would have to be diverted to pay to keep car parks operational.”