Last Place You Can Still Get Fleeced For Phone Calls: Hospitals

from the not-for-long dept

It used to be well known that hotels would recognize that guests had no other choice than to use the room phone to make phone calls, and thus would have extortionate rates as a way of padding revenue via a captive audience. As mobile phones became more common, the hotels started freaking out, with some even trying to buy mobile phone jammers as well. Others went a different route and figured that if most guests were using mobile phones, only the most desperate would use in-room phones, so they jacked the prices up even higher, knowing the only people who would use them had no other options. However, there is still one place where in-room phones have a captive audience apparently: hospitals. Turns out that hospitals (at least in the UK) like to charge ridiculous rates for patients receiving incoming calls. Of course, with many hospitals now looking to allow mobile phone use as well, it would seem that this little money maker may be going away as well.

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Comments on “Last Place You Can Still Get Fleeced For Phone Calls: Hospitals”

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Julie says:

must be a UK thing

This must be a UK thing as I have not heard of it in the US and I work in a hospital. Actually the hospital I am a student at has IP phones and as such does not charge for payphone usage, including 411 calls. So I’m not sure if more hospitals use IP phones or if this is a strictly local situation but I think it’s pretty good.

TheMajor says:

I have a budget????

At the hospital where I manage all things I.T., we do not charge for any local incoming or outgoing calls. We do stop inbound calls after 9pm to help patients get some rest. As for cell phones, we don’t allow them in the hospital, but not for the “Bad Dangerous Signals” (I used to work for a cellular company and it’s B.S.), the real problem is if Joe S. takes a picture of Patient A (say he’s walking down the hall and his backside peeks out) and then it ends up on the internet, well…the hospital has violated that patients right to privacy (HIPAA).

As for this thing you called a ‘budget???’ Can someone tell me what those are….I’ve never seen one in a hospital…

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Re: I have a budget????

I doubt that a picutre of Mr. Johnson’s 80 year old backside has anything to do with the Healthcare Information Privacy Protection Act – but then I’m not sure I can trust anyone who is the manager for a hospital’s IT department and not even know how the acronym is spelled or what it’s an acronym for…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cellphones in Hospitals

At your hospital maybe, but I’ve seen cell phones set off equipment at my local hospital on more than one occasion. I dont know enough about the equipment to tell you what the damn thing was, but it was definately the cell phone that was freaking it out (and a nurse had to come reset it each time).

Beck says:

Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

You obviously haven’t been in prison if you think hospitals are the only place left with a captive audience and ridiculous phone rates.

The states contract out the phone service to the highest bidder, who then proceeds to fleece the families of inmates who are only allowed to make collect calls.

Mouse says:

Re: Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

No doubt. Some federal Prison Camps have gone to a prepaid phone card system that is much cheaper but they really jack the families of the inmates in most places. Its ridiculous, cuts them off from the one resource they truly need to stay out of trouble for many of them.

And the bogus excuse CA corrections people give for using the overpriced phone services? It’s the only way we can be garunteed to be able to track the conversations in the event of criminal activity. I call bullshit.

Drewzilla says:

Re: Re: Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

I’m sorry, I got sucked into reading the conversation that was sparked by this story, even though I’m in the U.S. and the story and conversation really don’t have any bearing. But what I did find interesting was the last couple of posts on the topic regarding the high price inmates have to pay for telephone calls and here are my thoughts on the matter…

Tough Titties. I’m sorry, but this has got to be the most rediculous complaint I’ve ever heard. I know how you can save a ton of money on these phone calls, don’t go to prison.

SailorAlphaCentauri says:

Re: Re: Re: Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

Well, it would be too bad, so sad if it were the inmates paying for these calls, but they’re not. It’s the FAMILIES that have to pay these exorbitant charges (and not everyone in jail is someone who deserved to be there). It’s much more annoying when strangers call you collect from prison and while I’ve never accepted a call from a stranger in jail, I’ve known moronic girls who readily talk to these guys and it’s their parents who have to absorb the costs.

So before you go off making snide remarks saying “don’t go to prison” to save money on prison calls, keep in mind that not every family deserves to get fleeced by the prison phone system.

On the topic of the article itself, I do hope that this price gouging on those with no other options will end soon. It’s bad enough that you may not be able to afford the treatment in a hospital, but to have to pay high amounts for calls is just adding insult to injury.

Viv says:

Re: Re: Re: Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

Me thinks you didn’t get the message. It is the FAMILIES who pay the exorbant charges for the collect calls, NOT the inmates!
And don’t tell a mother she shouldn’t accept the calls…A Mother’s love is unconditional! THEY NEVER GIVE UP. The prison system gouges the families of inmates from the commissary to the phones.
There are many government officials who have commited more crimes than many of the inmates, (the non-violent ones) they just didn’t get caught.
and they are probably the ones that own the phone companies that service the prison system.

Viv says:

Re: Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

You are right about the prisons…especially “Evercom” but there is a company that can save some families money depending on their current rates and how far away they are. It works with collect calls to cell phones also. You can access it by going online to:
Didn’t help in my case because there is a one time set up charge and I won’t need to use it long enough to pay me to get set up. Thankfully, my son will be home soon.They have a short application to complete on line and they wiill respond with an e-mail if they can save you money.
Their website has lots if comments from loved ones and families thanking them. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the families being gouged by the system.

Karen Burkard says:

Re: Try Making a Phone Call from PRISON

Is there any cell phone company that allows collect calls?I am spending a fortune to speak to my son-in-law who is in a drug rehab prison in NY.

The only reason I keep my land mine phone is so I can receive these weekly collect calls. So, for just one half hour collect call per week, plus the cost to have a land mine phone, I’m paying over $75.00 per month.

Any suggestions?

Richard (profile) says:

Yes, but then again no...

I spent a couple of weeks in hospital in the UK about 18 months ago. While in A&E (casualty, ER, etc.) I asked for a phone so I could call my parents and my boss to tell them where I was, and was told to just go ahead and use my mobile – fortunately, I’d just slipped it into my pocket as I was waiting for my ambulance, so I had it with me. During my entire stay, only one nurse ever batted an eyelid at my using my mobile on the ward, and to be honest, it really helped. I was in no real medical trouble after the first couple of days, but to have my own phone with my own number, so friends, family and colleagues could get in touch with me – in many cases without even knowing I was ill – made it much easier to be in there.

I did use a porta-payphone once – I think my mobile battery had run down and I didn’t have my charger there yet. They wheeled the little trolley over to me and gave me the cable to plug into the wall – when they offered to help me plug it in, I made some smart-arse comment about being perfectly capable of plugging a phone into the wall myself… I’m pretty sure I was the only person on the ward with enough electrical kit that I needed someone to bring me in a 4-way adapter, since there weren’t enough plugs for patient use 🙂

Charlie says:

Some Cell phones, but depends on area and equipmen

I have been a visitor in 6 hospitals in the last 5 years. Only 1 prohibited Cell Phones across the board.

1 seemed to allow them anywhere (we were in the ER when we asked and they said go ahead), and the rest only ban them in the ER and ICU.

As for interference, cell phones most certainly can. A GSM cell phone clearly emits strong EM pulses, such that you can here them on any amplified speakers. These pulses are certainly going to be picked up by sensors on a patient. Heck, I can screw up a computer monitor if my phone is close enough to it. I have also seen cell phones crash electronic prototypes in a lab setting.

CDMA is better as it doesn’t pulse like TDMA and GSM. The spread spectrum design greatly reduces its impact further. I believe GSM is setup in such a way that the TDMA portion can be replaced with CDMA, but the installed base of towers and phones will probably keep that from ever happening.

RMartin says:

Phone Interference

Have you ever watched “Mythbusters” ??

They have debunked several myths about cell phones, including the myth that a spark from a ringing cell phone could set off an explosion while filiing your fuel tank.

In hospitals, it’s probably the other way around – shielding and equipment in the buildings will cause more interference to cell phone conversations than the opposite.

Julie says:

Cell phones don't cause problems

You’re right about cell phones not causing problems for the most part in hospitals. I had a doc tell a patient’s family member to go ahead and use her cell phone in the room the other night. However, can’t get a signal for the most part in the back part of the ER since it is HUGE and in a 6 story building. So they told her not to bother walking to get a signal, she could use the IP phone.

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