04/22/2015 01:25 EDT | Updated 07/16/2015 05:59 EDT

Island Health eyes free public Wi-Fi for hospitals

Visitors and patients at Vancouver Island hospitals may soon have access to free public Wi-Fi.

Island Health recently issued a request for proposal, asking internet service providers to set up a public Wi-Fi system that would be separate from the protected wireless service used by doctors and other hospital staff.

Island Health's chief technology officer Guy Weeks says it makes sense to let patients and families connect with each other.

"We have children that need to get out to the school districts, we have people that are escorting patients that may need to stay in touch with work, and of course, there's a lot of emergency situations where people can use wireless in a pinch to help connect them with family and loved ones," Weeks told On The Island.

Weeks says the public Wi-Fi system shouldn't interfere with medical machinery, even though many hospital visitors tend to turn off their cell phones for that reason, or out of courtesy.

Most modern equipment is designed to be resistant to those types of cellular signals, he said.

However, if people are in high acuity areas such as operation rooms, intensive care units or areas where diagnostic equipment are used, staff may still tell people to leave their cell phones at the door, said Weeks.

Some provincial agencies such as the B.C. Cancer Agency already provide free public Wi-Fi, but Weeks believes Island Health will be the first health authority in B.C. to offer it.

To hear the full interview with Guy Weeks, listen to the audio labelled: Free public wifi to come to Island Health hospitals