Days after mobile phones were banned by the state government in Bengal in hospitals over coronavirus, a private hospital in Kolkata has come up with a way to help the patients in isolation wards connect with their families and friends.
Every day, between 4:30 pm and 5:30 pm, medical staff in full protection gear drop by the patient's bedside and dial up their loved ones at Kolkata's AMRI Hospital in Salt Lake locality for a video chat.
"Every evening, we dial up the family members and the patient can speak to their families... but for three minutes only. There are a lot of patients," said one of the staff members at the hospitals. Many family members at their homes and some in the visitors rooms wait to talk to a doctor for an update.
In Bengal, doctors, health workers and patients have been banned from using cell phones inside hospitals, the state chief secretary Rajiva Sinha said last week. Landlines and intercom are installed for the use of patients in isolation wards, he said.
The cell phone ban came last week reportedly after a controversial video shot by a patient in a hospital ward went viral. The video was apparently taken by a COVID-19 patient inside an isolation ward at one of Kolkata's nodal hospitals.
The clip reportedly showed two bodies lying in the ward, waiting to be removed, even as other patients roam around or wait for medical attention.
However, the phone ban led to an anxiety among patients and their relatives. So the hospital went looking for solutions and came up with one.
"Last week, the government ordered a ban on cell phones in COVID-19 wards as cell phones could carry the virus," said Rupak Baruah, Group CEO, AMRI Hospitals. But the hospital also acknowledged that testing positive for coronavirus and being thrust into isolation wards away from family and friends could be overwhelming for any patient.
"Now patients are very happy and their relatives are also getting relaxed with the virtual visiting hour," Mr Baruah said.