SAULT STE. MARIE -- Sault Area Hospital will be making some major upgrades to its parking system.

Starting on June 21, the system will be overhauled to allow visitors to pay their parking fee with credit or debit cards as well as provide additional parking pass options.

Devon Clark, the hospital’s director of facilities, said the new parking system will mirror those seen in major airports.

"It will be a ticket-based system where they will drive up, press a button, and get a ticket," Clark said. "They bring that into the hospital where they can pay at any of the major entrances."

The exit fee of $6.00 will remain unchanged for the time being. Visitors will also have the option to purchase a 24-hour pass for $10.00, which will allow unlimited exits within that timeframe.

Clark said the upgrades have been a long time coming.

"People were very frustrated with the token-based or cash-based system," Clark said. "It was installed when the hospital was new. We’ve been in the hospital now, even though we still call it the new hospital, for over 10 years now, and it was time to replace that system."

In addition to the parking upgrades, Sault Area Hospital is stepping up enforcement of smoking bylaws. This week, security staff received the authority to issue tickets of up $250 to anyone found smoking on hospital property.

"Being on 50 acres and being so set back from public areas, we’ve really struggled with trying to control the smoking issue that we had," Clark said and points out that there are no designated smoking areas on hospital property in accordance with provincial smoking laws.

He said that smokers must move to a public space to smoke and that smoking is not permitted on the section of the Hub Trail that runs behind the hospital.