Effective March 1, healthcare providers will be prohibited from using mobile phones during working hours to "ensure better service delivery."
The announcement was delivered, yesterday, by the Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, at a workshop of health personnel.
The workshop, held in Bugesera District, sought to chart ways to improve quality of health service delivery at all levels, according to officials.
The ministry made the decision to implement the policy after officials agreed that speaking for long on personal phones affects service delivery in the health sector, said Malik Kayumba, the head of the health communication division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.
The ban applies to all health facilities during working hours.
"They (healthcare providers) were sharing best practices with reports indicating that some hospitals, which banned use of personal phones, proved to be more productive," said Kayumba.
He said the ministry will now discuss how to implement and enforce the ban.
Healthcare facilities will be fitted with office telephones for staff to use, said Kayumba.
Call for efficiency in implementation
Healthcare providers who spoke to The New Times were of mixed reactions, with some saying that while it is a positive move, mobile phones are effective tool when used well and there is need to ensure the decision doesn't backfire.
"Use of personal phones has a negative impact at some point as some can use it in their personal business while at work," said Agnes Uwayezu, the outgoing chairperson of National Council of Nurses and Midwives. "However, we also use them in daily communication so there is also need to look at how patients will not be affected due to lack of communication."
In some countries, medical staff are not allowed to use mobile phones while on duty but they have pagers they use to communicate work-related messages, and this could be a good solution for Rwanda, Uwayezu said.
A pager is a wireless telecommunications device that receives and displays numeric messages or receives and announces voice messages.
Some members of the public say the move will be hard to implement but could help patients receive better attention.
"It is worth giving a try. Often, patients are left unattended to while medics make noise on phones," tweeted Eric Mahoro, the director of programmes at Never Again Rwanda.
"That is a positive move," said JMV Kayiranga, from Kicukiro District. "It will improve service delivery."