The order, passed late on Tuesday and addressed to district magistrates (DM)s, chief medical officers of health (CMOH)s and superintendents of Covid-19 dedicated hospitals, read: “Since
mobile phones can be a potential source of spreading Covid-19 infection, no one will be allowed to carry, possess or use mobile phones inside Covid hospitals in the state. This applies to all persons inside the hospital, whether patient or staff on duty. The deposit of
patients’ mobile phones may be taken and a receipt may be given to them. However, to ensure they have a communication channel to the hospital administration, intercom facility may be provided in the wards.”
“What is wrong in reiterating the same guidelines? It’s for the benefit of patients, isn’t it?” said minister of state for health Chandrima Bhattacharya. Ajay Chakravorty, director of health services, said, “On Tuesday, there were discussions regarding the use of
mobiles in Covid-19 hospitals.”
Senior officials at Swasthya Bhavan pointed out that a video clip, ostensibly recorded by a suspected Covid-19 patient at M R Bangur Hospital, had gone viral on Tuesday, prompting them to issue the order. The video shared extensively on social media showed a body, covered in plastic, lying on one of the beds at the hospital ward. “We have nothing to hide. It takes some time to remove a body, according to the protocol. But mobiles are not supposed to be used inside Covid-19 isolation wards for the sheer hazard and the transmission risk involved. You can check with private hospitals and find that the same stringent rule is in place everywhere. We have very clear instructions against the use of cellphones in these places,” said Sisir Naskar, superintendent at M R Bangur Hospital.
The hospital on D S Road in Tollygunge was last month designated as one of the four “state-level” city hospitals, dedicated to the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
NRS Hospital principal Saibal Mukherjee said, “I have not seen the order yet but we don’t allow mobiles in our isolation wards.”
Naskar said the order was being implemented at M R Bangur from Wednesday, and patients either left their mobiles with their families or submitted them to nurses. “Patients can communicate with their families through attendants, who will speak on their behalf on the intercom. We have three such attendants on every shift, acting as the liaison between patients and families,” the MR Bangur superintendent said. About the video, he said, “It’s authenticity is yet to be verified. A video has a voice, saying the body had been lying in the ward for two hours. Going by the protocol, a patient is declared dead four hours after his/her heartbeat stops. After four hours, the body goes to the morgue. So, we have not erred even if the video is authentic.”
Union minister Babul Supriyo tweeted on the ban on mobiles in hospitals, questioning its timing. He questioned whether the person who recorded the video had been “booked”. Kolkata Police responded it was completely incorrect and a misinformation.