The Southern Health Trust has defended spending £200,000 on new bedside entertainment systems for patients.
it described the new smart TVs as a way of enhancing the wellbeing of cancer and renal patients.
The technology in the Mandeville Unit at Craigavon Area Hospital provides touchscreen systems giving access to TV, radio and internet for patients during chemotherapy or blood transfusions that can last for more than six hours.
The system also allows staff to log on to the terminals to access patient records.
Moira McCullagh, a haematology patient, has attended the unit for a full day’s supportive blood transfusion treatment every three weeks for the past 18 years.
“It can be a long day which I would have usually spent resting, reading or watching the shared ward TV which wouldn’t usually have sound,” she told a Belfast newspaper. “Now, with these new entertainment terminals, I can bring in my own headphones and watch whatever channel I like or listen to the radio without disturbing other patients.”
The 70-year-old added: “I can also surf the web and keep up-to-date on Facebook and know that some patients even do their online shopping, making much better use of their time.”
MLA and former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said that although he understood it was a good idea to benefit patients, he questioned whether the money could have been diverted to another area of the cash-strapped health service.
“I understand the reasons why they are doing it,” he said.
“If you are going through dialysis, in a modern ward it’s about ensuring the patient is distracted.
“I think it is hard to justify money expended on that type of facility bearing in mind how difficult finances are overall in the service.”
A spokeswoman for the Southern Trust said the £200,000 investment was a “one-off capital fund” specifically allocated to technological projects.
“The investment includes 18 units in the cancer centre which our chemotherapy patients are using to occupy themselves during their lengthy treatments,” the Trust spokeswoman said.
“By keeping up-to-date with work emails, studying or simply using to relax by watching TV or listening to the radio, the units are greatly enhancing the wellbeing of these patients during a particularly stressful time in their lives.”