Screens still dark at Comox hospital

St. Joseph's General Hospital patients have not been able take their minds off their hospital treatments using TV for nearly two months.

St. Joseph’s General Hospital patients have not been able take their minds off their hospital treatments using television for nearly two months.

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 due to technical difficulties in mid-May.

The equipment was taken back to the company’s office in Vancouver for troubleshooting and was expected to be reinstalled at the hospital, problem-free, shortly after the middle of June.

However, Eric Macdonald, St. Joe’s vice-president of finance, capital and support services, told the Record Monday the equipment has not been reinstalled yet.

“We’ve given them sort of a deadline to get it up and running again by, and they still have not reinstalled anything as of today,” said Macdonald, adding that the deadline is the end of this month. “They are  coming to see me this week with a plan for reinstalling the — what they call a new and upgraded system — so they’re not really there yet, in terms of being confident that they’re going to be able to do this.”

Macdonald also said the hospital will look for alternate providers if the deadline is not met.

“That’s part of what our notice to them was — that they had a certain amount of time, the two months to get this rectified, after which we would begin considering other options,” he said, adding the hospital is hopeful HRG will be able to get the system running properly by the deadline. “They are coming to see me this week and they sound quite positive that they have this all worked out. So they’ll be a meeting with our IT staff as well as myself and explaining, you know, what they’ve done and how they attempt to implement the improvements.”

HRG did not return the Record’s phone calls in time for deadline.

If HRG does not meet the deadline, St. Joe’s will invite proposals from other service providers. These services would also be at no cost to the hospital, according to Macdonald. Generally, hospital patients pay for the service themselves.

However, Macdonald pointed out it’s important for St. Joe’s patients to have the option for television services during their stays.

“We would like our patients to be able to have their entertainment services while they’re here,” he said. “That’s sort of the top priority right now, is to get that going again.”

The HRG 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.