No internet access for veterans at VA hospital

In this FILE photo a look at a Veterans Clinic in the United States.
In this FILE photo a look at a Veterans Clinic in the United States.

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Elliott Storm is a Marine Corp vet with two Purple Hearts. He served in Vietnam in the late 1960’s. Now, he’s battling leukemia at the VA Hospital in West Haven and taking on a fight for other patients as well.

“Most of these guys have no support and it broke my heart. I mean truly broke my heart,” said Storm.

One day into his month long stay at the hospital Storm found out there’s no internet connection available in any of the patient rooms. Internet access is only available in one common area on the entire campus. Storm says the lack of wifi is a technological setback towards recovery.

“Wouldn’t it be marvelous if they could go online, go to their sites when they were in the service, start tapping into friends, talking to them, communicating with people they knew in school?” said Storm.

Two weeks ago Storm contacted Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) to bring attention to the problem.

“I was astonished and appalled that there is no Wi-Fi service in the individual rooms, only in the common area,” said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal says he has reached out to the administration at the hospital. They say it’s all about funding. VA hospitals in Boston and Northampton have installed Wi-Fi at a cost of $300-thousand to $500-thousand.

The VA released the following statement to News 8:

  • In response to the patient’s inquiry regarding the installation of Wi-Fi throughout the facility, we contacted several other VA hospitals in New England to see if this service was available and if so, how much it cost to install and maintain.  Two VA facilities (Boston and Northampton) provide wireless service.  The cost ran from $300,000 (Northampton) to $500,000 (Boston).
  • Wireless is available in our Geriatric and Extended Care Unit community room.  Patients in these areas are here for an extended period of time as part of palliative care, hospice and long term care programs. These patients could be at the facility from weeks to months.
  • Thanks to the efforts of this patient, we will put out a request to get an estimate for Wi-Fi installation, maintenance, support, connection and help desk.
  • We appreciate any support by our congressional delegation to get this project funded.

Blumenthal is taking this battle to Washington in hopes of securing funding for Wi-Fi.

“Pharmaceutical drugs and therapeutic treatment may be important but so is the psychological connection to the outside world that comes from Wi-Fi service,” said Blumenthal.

For Storm, the journey to good health has been aided by a personal hot spot used to keep in touch with family and friends. It’s an amenity he feels many at the hospital can’t afford.

“I go online and we Facebook. What’s it called? Skype and Facetime with each other so I’m seeing them. Well, these folks can’t do that and you know, again, if you looked it’d break your heart,” said Storm.

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