Patients sneak cellphones into surgery

Some people's attachment to their cellphones is such they feel they cannot do without them, even in the operating theatre.

While Dunedin's private Mercy Hospital had a clear "no cellphones'' policy for patients undergoing surgery, one was recently smuggled into an operating theatre, hospital chief executive Richard Whitney said.

The patient wanted to be able to access their phone the moment they woke up.

The risk of the phone ringing in the operating theatre "just when the knife is about to go in'' had not been considered by the patient, he said.

Nor had the risk of the device going missing or being wrapped up with laundry or otherwise disposed of.

Hospital staff tried to get cellphones off patients who were to undergo surgery "at the earliest opportunity'', he said.

In another incident, staff had to stop parents from video-recording their child being put under anaesthetic before an operation.

"Sorry, it's not going to happen,'' they were told.

Mr Whitney said one issue the would-be photographers did not appreciate was that staff could be captured in photos without their knowledge or consent.

Photographs were taken by staff in some instances as part of the clinical record and the hospital treated confidentiality and privacy around such photographs "really strictly'', he said.

In an email response this week to questions posed in mid-April about visitors/patients' use of digital devices in Southern District Health Board hospitals, acting chief executive Lexie O'Shea said the board was in the process of "looking at drafting a policy for patients/visitors to the hospital''.

"At present we deal with requests on a case-by-case basis where we strive to strike a balance between employee privacy and a patient's right to manage their care.''

The board already had a formal policy on the use of digital devices for staff.

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