THE HIGH COST OF PARKING
Like all parents of critically ill children, Jackson’s parents, Carrie and Terry, were told by Jackson’s doctors that visiting their child everyday was just as important to his health and recovery as the medical care he received. Fortunate enough to have the resources to make this possible, the couple was able to spend every day with their son. They even turned his room at the NICU into a nursery.
But not every family is so fortunate. In fact, the Meghies soon found that the reason so many other babies in the NICU were being cared for by hospital staff came down to something as simple as parking. The 44-bed unit of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is a state-designated Level IV NICU, capable of caring for the smallest and sickest of newborns. The average length of stay for a baby in the NICU is 28 days, with the majority staying months at a time.
With the hospital located in one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, validated parking for one car up to seven hours costs $11; up to 24 hours costs $15. Visiting one’s child every day can range from $330/month to upwards of $1,100/month, not including the added expenses of an additional car or having to go in and out of the lot. (If a parent has to leave the lot for a work commitment or to pick up another child, for example, they will have to pay again to re-enter.)
Public transportation also comes with a hefty price tag, ranging from over $2 for a one-way ticket to over $100 for a monthly pass. If these fees are burdensome to the average family, consider their impact on the NICU families, 52% of whom are on Medicaid. In fact, visiting a critically ill child daily often costs more than a monthly mortgage or rent payment.
“High parking and public transportation cost often hinders the ability of parents to visit their babies who often require months of the highest level of neonatal intensive care,” said Dr. James W. Collins, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “The initiative to fully fund parents’ transportation cost will remove the major barrier to parental visitation. More frequent hospital visits will facilitate parental-infant bonding, encourage timely communication with the medical team, and reduce parental anxiety.”
With complimentary parking/transportation, no parent will have to make the heart wrenching decision between visiting their baby everyday or paying for their mortgage – or even food. No family should have to make that choice.