Hospital hotspots 'prove a huge hit'

17 November 2021

The data caps are off, and the Wi-Fi is surging at Taranaki’s hospitals.

Broadband provider Primo is marking four years since its free Wi-Fi service officially went live at Taranaki Base and Hāwera Hospital. Recently the daily data cap of 2 gigabytes per user was removed, along with the log-on page and its advertising, and people can just sign in using the FreePrimoHotspot in their Wi-Fi settings on phones, laptops or computers.

Primo owner and the instigator of the Wi-Fi scheme, Matt Harrison, says it’s very handy service for patients, family and friends because keeping in touch is vital for everybody’s wellbeing.

"This is especially true in more recent times with the visitor number limits during the Covid alert levels. We know it’s been harder than ever to keep in touch with loved ones during their stay in hospital, so we want to do all we can to make that as easy as possible.

The Wi-Fi has proved extremely popular since it started, with more than1200 people using the service at any one time. Demand has increased even more this year with its extension into some of the centres where the Taranaki District Health Board is doing its Covid-19 vaccinations.

"We’re committed to continue providing this service too," Harrison says. "It’s great for keeping the kids entertained, and for keeping people linked into their mates at a time that really matters most - from the maternity ward to the emergency department and everywhere in between."

He knows personally how tough a stay in hospital can be - he had six months of being tested and treated for a bowel disease at Taranaki Base. He burned through more than $3000 worth of mobile data running the business from his hospital bed before working out a way to connect to Primo’s network through a handy cable and a spare antenna - all with the help of the DHB’s IT staff of course!

In the four years the service has been running more than 1580 terabytes of information has been uploaded and downloaded. And because the service has the bonus of not costing the DHB anything, that's money saved that's better spent elsewhere, Harrison says.

"All that data soon adds up too - it’s equal to 790,000 2-hour movies, which if you tried to watch yourself would take 180 years non-stop.

"I don’t think any other hospitals in New Zealand have such a free service with no data caps or any advertising, proving again Taranaki is really like no other."

Taranaki DHB’s chief executive, Rosemary Clements, says having free Wi-Fi available at Taranaki Base and Hāwera Hospital for patients to connect with their loved ones is tremendous, especially during such uncertain times with Covid-19.

"We know patients’ health and recovery can be enhanced through regular contact with their support networks. Increased connectivity with friends and whānau at a stressful time is much better for their wellbeing, and with easy access to Primo’s Wi-Fi it’s easier to keep family up to date, whether they live in Taranaki or on the other side of the world.

"We are so grateful for the amazing generosity Primo has shown, not just to our hospitals, but to our whole community. They are certainly leading the way with technology."


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