Employees of Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital will now have to mark attendance with their fingers instead of in cumbersome registers.

The hospital installed biometric machines at a cost or Rs. 4 lakh in several departments on Friday. The new system is expected to be in place in all government-run hospitals up to the level of primary health centres.

The decision was taken following a spate of bad publicity for government hospitals. On August 26, a family refused to take possession of their dead child in the custody of Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital. They also alleged that hospital staff did not report to duty on time.

In the aftermath of this issue, Health Minister V.S. Vijay conducted surprise checks in hospitals and on some occasions he found that some doctors and nurses were reporting late for duty. Some were issued memos while others were suspended or were asked to provide explanation for coming late to work.

The minister then called for a meeting in which he said that biometric attendance system would be introduced in all government-run healthcare centres.

The hospital authorities demanded that a government order be issued so that they would have formal permission for the project, which was issued on September 20. The director of medical education had forwarded the GO instructing hospitals to implement the biometric system of attendance by October 1.

The machine takes one to two seconds to register each entrant. According to hospital dean V. Kanagasabai, at present 13 machines have been installed. “If needed we will procure more machines,” he said.

By Saturday evening, around 1,500 employees of the hospital had registered their name, date of birth and the impression of their index fingers on the machines.

But the senior nursing staff had several questions. The allotted time is only 10 minutes and during the day shift there would be more staff members. Would they all be able to register on time? How would it take care of off-duty, absence from work, or leave for various reasons, were some of the questions raised.

“We have to sit with the authorities and discuss our doubts,” a senior nurse said.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012

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