Comox hospital patients should be reconnected soon

After about a month with no television access, patients at St. Joseph's General Hospital can expect to have the option to watch it again soon.

Health Resource Group (HRG) Inc. — which installed 160 prototype touch-pad entertainment terminals at no cost to the hospital in 2010 — shut the system down in mid-May due to technical difficulties.

The servers and operating systems went back to the company's office in Vancouver for troubleshooting for an estimated 30 days.

Early next week — which is about 30 days later — the equipment is expected to be reinstalled, according to HRG CEO Ken Grant.

"We've made some giant steps forward," said Grant Tuesday, adding testing is just wrapping up this week, but it looks like the problems are fixed. "We've completely rebuilt the system and we have a much more scalable program — right now we're in the testing phase to make sure that the program actually works and works smoothly before we install it."

The equipment was installed as a pilot project. The terminals boasted television, Internet, entertainment such as movies and games, telephone, a customer satisfaction survey, an option for ordering food with a menu based on the patient’s needs and a call nurse button, which uses a video connection.

However, the system had intermittent functionality problems when working, and at other times it shut down completely, leaving hospital patients without any electronic entertainment during their stays.

Grant had noted problems with scalability, meaning the system's ability to function during high traffic.

He expects an install team will be at the hospital for three to four days next week to reprogram the system onsite, and at first only the TV function will be up and running.

"That'll be starting with TV. Our next step then is to introduce the telephone and the Internet soon after that," Grant said, adding the Internet may even be up and running on the same trip.

The service which has been free to users since December because of the issues, will remain free for a minimum of 30 days after it's installed, according to Grant.

"The idea behind that is that we want to make sure that it runs on a stable basis and that the hospital executive is satisfied that it's running the way they want," he said.

Although St. Joseph's president and CEO Jane Murphy was not available to comment in time for the Record's deadline, she had called the situation "serious" in a past interview, adding it's important for patients to have access to television service during their stays.

She had also mentioned the hospital planned to look into other service options if necessary.

According to Grant, HRG will wait until the hospital is happy with the services being reinstalled next week, and then the other services like food ordering will be looked at.

"Those were to be done once we were satisfied we had a stable platform for TV, telephone, Internet — that's No. 1," he said. "Then we start working on the food services, the pharmacy, the nurse link, there's a whole bunch of pieces that are part of it."

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