Patients face sticker shock over WiFi and cable prices at MUHC

Once they've handed over $25 for parking, some MUHC users are shocked to see the sticker price on patient cable and WiFi. 

Access to both can set patients back over $140 per week, WiFi access that allows patients to view YouTube videos or stream Netflix is $20.70 and the most basic cable package is $11 before taxes and a "service fee". 

Renaud Maurin says he was livid after visiting a friend in hospital as she couldn't afford to access WiFi on her phone, so he tried to buy it for her.

"Staring at a blank wall for two or three days is pure hell," says Maurin. "So you're putting them in a spot where they have to pay whatever you want to charge them and it's abusive." 

Patients rights advocate Paul Brunet agrees the prices may be inflated, as sick patients are a captive market.

"It is probably a price that is not meeting standards of the consumers protection act."

Gary Schnieder Executive Vice-President of Hopitel, the company that provides the service, says considering their hospital-grade equipment the price isn't unfair.

"The investment that is required to deliver these services are significant," says Schnieder. "Companies like Hopitel have to invest literally millions of dollars to outfit the hospital with the appropriate equipment." 

Hopitel provides info-entertainment services for most hospitals on the island, and pays a small commission to the hospitals when patients subscribe. 

Health minister Gaetan Barrette says they go with private providers because it's not in the hospitals interest to be subsidizing luxuries like TV and computer access. 

"We have a financial situation in this province under which we need to make choices and I think it is fair to say that we should direct all our available money to care."

But Maurin believes the prices are predatory, especially for WiFi which is often free to use in coffeeshops and even some public parks.