Vulnerable patients are being forced to pay up to $14 a day just to have access to free-to-air television in some of Australia’s biggest public hospitals, infuriating patient advocates.
Public hospitals and patient entertainment services across the country are slugging the ill and injured an average of $10 a day to hire a television.
Patient Advocate Australia founder and former nurse Dorothy Kamaker called it “blatant profiteering” from both the hospitals and the rental services.
“Fourteen dollars a day is absolutely ridiculous. I mean it’s just a TV, it’s more than you pay for the premium Foxtel service and you’re getting free-to-air,” Ms Kamaker said.
“I think people who are in hospital are already stressed and actually benefit from some form of de-stressing and entertainment,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair to charge them.”
How does it work?
The provision of televisions in public hospitals varies depending on the facility, according to state governments.
Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the New South Wales Department of Health told The New Daily public hospitals are autonomous from state governments, and it is up to the individual institution to provide its own service.
In essence, each facility enters into a contract with a patient entertainment service (PES) provider on their own behalf.
The commercial model for PES (which can vary according to the circumstances of each hospital) is that the provider supplies and installs the infrastructure free of charge and the revenue generated from the television service is collected by the PES providers to recover their costs.
It is common for this model to include a provision for the hospital to collect a percentage of the revenue based on overall usage.
Hills Health Solutions, a PES that provides packages for hospitals across Victoria, NSW, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, refused to comment on how its revenue is shared.
‘Patients disempowered in hospitals’
Ms Kamaker said patients are at the mercy of the hospitals when it comes to their patient entertainment service.
“There’s not much the individual can do, patients are very disempowered in hospitals,” she said.
“They have to simply succumb. They either succumb to what the hospital says or don’t have TV at all, there’s no alternative in the hospital.
“You can obviously bring in your own iPad or computer, but they’re not safe. Things like that get stolen in hospitals.”
Ms Kamaker said in her experience, some hospital TVs don’t have all the free-to-air programs, frequently don’t work and often aren’t tuned correctly.
“Just because they say, ‘we’ve got you in bed and you’re not well you’ve got to pay for it’, I don’t understand the logic behind it,” she said.
What are they charging?
In Victoria, Casey Hospital’s standard TV fees range from $10 a day, with $9 for pensioners, $30 for five days, and $85 for a month.
TV hire fees at the Austin Hospital start at $11 a day and climb to $48 for a week.
St Vincent’s Hospital, meanwhile, doesn’t charge its patients to watch TV.
In New South Wales, St George Hospital charges pensioners $9 a day, while Blacktown Hospital offers seniors a $8.90 fee, with a $9.90 standard fee, $53.40 for a week, and $87.60 for a fortnight.
Of the four hospitals surveyed in Western Australia, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital was the most expensive at $10 a day and $9 for pensioners.
Joondalup, Bunbury Regional and St John of God Midland Hospitals all offer free TV viewing.
Tasmania’s Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional charge $10 and $9.60 per day respectively.
Queenslanders receiving treatment at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital are charged a standard rate for a single day of $12 – the price has not changed since early 2009. It costs $77 for a week and $244 for a service that includes Foxtel.
The Cairns Hospital daily rates start at $9 a day with significantly cheaper fees for long-term patients, offering a $29 fee for the duration of the stay.
Meanwhile, South Australian public hospitals charges the most with both Noarlunga and Royal Adelaide charging patients $13.75 for one day’s use.