Aftab Mohmand

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department has imposed a ban on the use of mobile phones during duty hours for all of its officials. This directive was communicated via a letter to hospitals and district health officers across the province. The memo highlights public complaints regarding employees’ mobile phone usage, which has even led to conflicts with patients.

The department expressed concern that patient care was being compromised due to the distraction caused by mobile phones. All staff members have been instructed to refrain from using mobile phones while on duty, with violators facing both departmental and disciplinary actions. Despite efforts to seek input from relevant authorities, no response has been received thus far regarding this ban.

In response to this ban, Dr. Shams Wazir, the provincial chairman of the “Social Welfare” department of the Young Doctors Association, speculated that the decision must have arisen from public complaints. He recalled a similar ban initiated by the previous government, which was never effectively enforced, resulting in continued mobile phone usage among health department employees.

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Dr. Wazir raised concerns about the practicality of this ban, particularly in an era where digitalization plays a pivotal role in healthcare. In developed countries, hospitals employ digital communication systems like pagers to keep staff connected worldwide. He emphasized that in the absence of a functional pager system, healthcare workers rely on mobile phones for communication, research, and accessing information during patient care. Dr. Wazir also highlighted the role of mobile devices in facilitating communication between health department employees, from the Director-General of Health down to paramedics, through platforms like WhatsApp.

Furthermore, Dr. Wazir underscored situations where mobile phones are indispensable, such as during anti-polio campaigns and the establishment of medical campuses requiring off-duty presence. In these scenarios, immediate access to mobile phones is vital for contacting relevant authorities in case of emergencies or accidents. He suggested that unnecessary mobile phone use during duty hours could be monitored via CCTV cameras and addressed through existing legal frameworks.

Dr. Wazir criticized the Health Department’s decision as a diversionary tactic from addressing genuine issues plaguing the healthcare system. He argued that the decision to enforce the mobile ban should have involved a committee comprising the public, doctors, and officials to thoroughly examine the matter. Given the absence of a pager system, Dr. Wazir predicted that the ban would be difficult to implement effectively and suggested that it may ultimately be rescinded.

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