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12 November 2012

Free Wi-Fi at Geneva's University Hospital

Wi-Fi in hospital patients’ rooms can be harmful. In December 2008, my companion was placed in a seven-bed room after removal of his lung (diagnosis of mesothelioma – cancer of the pleura). His post-operative condition deteriorated : difficulties breathing and incisions which would not heal. The patient in the bed next to his was working the whole day on a Wi-Fi –connected computer. 

In June 2008, Wi-Fi was installed at this hospital (HUG – Geneva’s university hospital) – 200 antennas deployed in all  care units of including the Maternity, Children’s Hospital, Palliative Care Service, and hospital for the elderly.

The article appearing in HUG’s magazine, « Pulsations » in June 2008 shows the level of ignorance of the Geneva medical profession concerning the risks of wireless technology. When I wrote to the Director-General of HUG in 2010, he replied, “Considering the absence of proof, demonstrated by actual scientific knowledge, that exposure to Wi-Fi antennas could cause health problems, but also proof of the total harmlessness of this technology, HUG does not foresee taking back its decision to offer this new benefit to its users, considering the advantages of having W-Fi at the hospital for patients’ comfort …”

Free Wi-Fi for Patients
by Giuseppe Costa, Pulsations, June 2008

Wifi. Abbreviation for Wireless Fidelity – wireless network broadband access to the Internet – is largely used in French. It is now entering the hospital milieu. This service, generally paid for in clinics, is free for hospitalized patients at HUG.

Thanks to some 200 antennas deployed in the hospital care units of Cluse-Roseraie (Building D, Maternity, Children’s Hospital, ophthalmology, Beau-Séjour), Cesco, Loëx and Trois-Chêne, people can navigate for free on the Internet from their room via the HUG-Wi-Fi network.

« These people have nothing particular to do beforehand to connect. They only have to learn the conditions of use and accept them. This means that each Internaut undertakes to use the network for licit purposes, respect the legislation in effect in Switzerland and understand that he is responsible for the data he consults, files or transmits. Access to pornographic, pedophile, and racist sites or those containing viruses is blocked”, explains Bertrand Hartwig, the person responsible for architecture and management of information systems (DIG).


On the practical side, contrary to phones in rooms, the material is not furnished by HUG : patients must use their personal computer. The available network functions at high speed with a bandwidth of 30 mega and is of high quality. For the greatest happiness of a businessman wanting to consult professional files from his bed, the teenager wanting to “chat” with his classmates or the mother wishing to see her children on her webcam.

At this time, only the hospital care units are concerned … soon, more places? “A plan to extend the service is already foreseen and will be in place depending on funding availability and use analysis. We could thus equip welcome areas, waiting rooms or restaurants”, replied Jorge da Roxa, Deputy Director of DIG.

In the beginning, for caregivers

Note that the Wi-Fi network has progressively been installed these last years so that the personnel can access care applications. The extension to patients is the result of this important deployment.

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