'Definition of insanity': Ministry of Health spent $30k on nearly unusable robots

Newshub can reveal the Ministry of Health (MoH) has spent tens of thousands of dollars on robots that keep breaking down and mostly aren't in use.

The robots are known as Beams, and are essentially an iPad stuck to a Segway that allows users to beam themselves around the world.

Our MoH didn't just buy one, it bought five - and now they're gathering dust. Just one was used to remotely treat patients at Waikato DHB until it broke.

The Ministry bought the basic, no-frills version but they're still not cheap. The first Beam cost taxpayers $3505. The next four, plus an upgrade, cost $28,446.

All up, we've spent $31,951 on the mothballed robots. While $32,000 may not seem like masses of money in an area worth billions, it could still pay for a couple of hip or knee replacements.

And official documents released to Newshub suggest the Beams haven't been bang for buck.

Concerns were raised with the first trial robot after the battery kept going flat, and the Wi-Fi use was so high it could impact the Ministry's overall network.

The Ministry was warned it could even pose a hacking risk so "shouldn't connect to the ministry's private network".

Emails reveal more complaints from staff, including that it misses calls. At one point they came up with a solution: a phone strapped to the iPad on wheels to provide a connection.

But despite all that, the Ministry pushed ahead and bought another four. Eventually, all Beams are expected to be deployed to DHBs.

National's Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says the robots are the "definition of insanity".

The MoH's new boss hasn't seen the Beams, and thinks they might live in the Ministry's basement.

They were bought before his time, but he's promised no more robots under his watch.