Comox hospital gives up on entertainment services provider

After about two and a half months of no television at St. Joseph's General Hospital, patients could have access within a month.

After about two and a half months of no television at St. Joseph’s General Hospital, patients could have access to the service again within a month.

“We appreciate that the patients have been understanding,” said Eric Macdonald, St. Joe’s vice-president of finance, capital and support services. “We regret that we’ve not been able to provide them television over the summer during their in-patient stay, but we’ll do our best to make sure that it’s restored as soon as possible, hopefully in the next month.”

The bedside entertainment screens have been dark at the hospital since mid-May after Healthcare Resource Group (HRG) Inc. — which installed 160 prototype touch-pad entertainment terminals at no cost to the hospital in 2010 — shut the system down due to technical difficulties.

The system also had ongoing intermittent functionality problems during its time at the hospital, and the company took the operating systems back to its offices in Vancouver to work on the issues when it shut the system down.

HRG CEO Ken Grant had given a couple of dates for reinstallation since the Record first spoke to him in May, but the dates passed and the equipment was still not ready.

A couple of weeks after the equipment was removed, Macdonald told HRG it had until the end of July to have the system restored.

“Unfortunately, they did not make their deadline and we had given them a warning that we would not be extending the deadline, and we’ve not,” said Macdonald. “So, I have written to them indicating that we are beginning to make arrangements with an alternate service provider for entertainment services.”

Macdonald noted the hospital has contacted its previous television service provider, Hospitality Network, and he’s hoping to receive a proposal from the company within a week.

“And then, depending upon the nature of that proposal, we may or may not got out to market at this stage,” he added. “We’ll have to evaluate that option and the viability of it.”

However, Grant — who noted HRG will remove and recycle its equipment still at the hospital —  said a different supplier may have trouble when trying to install new television screens.

“The challenge that a new supplier will have to satisfy are changes in the access to power at the bedside,” said Grant in an e-mail. “According to the regulations, a new TV cannot simply be plugged into the existing wall plug.”

He added the company had been able to fix the issues with the system. But, HRG was trying to sort out computer software licensing issues that came up after the company underwent internal staffing restructuring.

“Each server has several licenses with Microsoft, Adobe and Dell,” explained Grant. “All licences were illegally registered in the name of our previous CTO (chief technology officer), in his own name or in one of his other companies. Each of the software suppliers are working on this issue.”

He said HRG asked St. Joe’s for a further 45 days to accommodate the licensing issues.

But Macdonald said the hospital could not wait any more for the service.

“We have to put our patients’ needs as foremost, and that we feel we’ve been fair in giving them more than enough time to rectify the problems and difficulties they were having — we just weren’t prepared to give them any more time at this point,” he said. “Our immediate goal is to try and get some television service to our in-patients as soon as possible.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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