The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospital muzzle on screaming cellphones

Chennai, Sept. 9: A hospital in the temple town of Madurai has asked its doctors to switch off their cellphones while on duty.

“There is no formal ban, but we have requested all our doctors, including junior medicos, to voluntarily turn off their cells when they are on their rounds attending to patients, in operation theatres or at other work spots within the premises so that patients are not inconvenienced,” the deputy superintendent of Government Rajaji Hospital, Dr K. Bose, said over phone today.

The decision was taken at a recent meeting of the hospital’s doctors following some “general complaints” about cellphones disturbing patients, he said. It was not based on any “general advisory” from the government health department, Dr Bose clarified.

The Rajaji hospital is an important referral institution for the southern districts. On an average, 9,000 outpatients are treated there daily, besides the 2,100 in-patients at any point of time, he said. Including the post-graduate medical students and interns, the hospital has 350 doctors.

Even during class hours in the medical college attached to the hospital, the cellphones carried by post-graduate students are a nuisance. Hence, they have been advised to keep the phones switched off in classrooms, said Dr Bose.

The senior doctors “do see the point and have already accepted our suggestion,” he added. “We have to wait and see how the others respond to it.” However, the deputy superintendent felt “there should be no problem with others as well”.

If the Rajaji hospital experiment succeeds, it could prompt other public hospitals to follow suit.

Already, at all functions in the state attended by chief minister Jayalalithaa, the President, the Prime Minister, the deputy Prime Minister or the governor, invitees are told to switch off their cellphones for security reasons because the electro-magnetic waves beaming messages to cellular users could interfere with the frequency of bomb detecting devices, like jammers.

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