“My son was placed in a hospital ward of about 10 square metres in size, with four cribs in it, all of them occupied. Consequently, mothers had only chairs left to sit on. My partner’s idea was putting a foam rubber mat under the crib and sleeping there, huddled up. A couple of other mothers followed her lead.
Not half as much was said about the status and treatment of my son as about the hospital’s house rules. It seems like the most important piece of information was that only one parent was allowed to stay with him (except for the times displayed on the board: between 4 pm and 17.30 pm), so we were forced to decide immediately who would stay and who would leave.
Fortunately, this gravely discriminative rule displayed on the board, according to which only a female relative was allowed to be in the ward, is not kept, so I was allowed to spend half a day with my little boy.” (excerpt from a father’s letter)
Both the Hungarian Act on Patient Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child require that parents must be provided the right to stay with their child at the hospital. Unfortunately, in many cases, this does not happen. ° Being at the hospital is frustrating even for adults, as they must overcome not only the pain and fear related to the disease, but also the defenceless state of being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unknown people and unknown rules. For a child, an experience like this is even more traumatic. ° According to the representative survey carried out by TASZ, nine out of ten parents raising children consider it important to stay with their child at such times. ° However, observations at the paediatric and maternity wards lead to the conclusion that parents may stay with their children 24 hours a day only half of the time. The other institutions either require a separate permission for staying in the hospital, or allow it only in the case of children under a certain age.
For the first time in April 2015, we carried out a survey involving 64 state-run health care institutions having maternity and paediatric wards, who were interviewed for public information. We were interested in the conditions of children and their relatives keeping in touch. This first survey was repeated in early 2016, by which time 59 hospitals had already sent their answers. Our survey was based on the voluntary answers by the hospitals and was carried out based on the summary and analysis of these. °
Parental presence, however, is not only important because the child is afraid. ° A child who is less frustrated heals faster and is more cooperative. Moreover, the parent who is present can substitute overwhelmed nurses to a certain extent, and can prepare better for home care if they already learn the tasks at the hospital with expert instruction.
Per the UN Convention, signed by Hungary, hospitals are obliged to provide a proper place and infrastructure for parents to stay with their children. Unfortunately, the situation continues to deteriorate. As the father’s quote above demonstrates, in most cases, accommodation for the parent is not arranged even if the parent is allowed to stay with their child. We can only imagine how inhumane it must be for the parent during a longer hospital stay, in addition to the worry for their child, to be sleep deprived. Often, one can only doze off when squatting on a chair in the corner of a room. In some places, sleep deprival is applied as a torture method, while in our country, it is the privilege of parents whose child is taken to hospital.
In many institutions, however, the aforementioned rules exist. According to these rules, the mother or another female relative may stay with the child. Wherever this is diligently kept, they put certain mothers in an impossible situation, where they must tend to their child in hospital and the ones at home (whom they might be still breastfeeding).
Obviously, the possibilities of hospitals are limited, so, unfortunately, they cannot be expected to provide the parents with an ideal comfortable environment during their stay. Still, it would be crucial that each institution that treats children should deal with this question the best ways considering the situation. The results of the survey also demonstrate that this is possible. ° There are currently several hospitals that provide a good structure for allowing communication between parents and their children. This does not necessarily depend on how well equipped the institution is. Finally, parents’ accommodations should be baked into the planning when developing paediatric hospitals.
Translated by Fanni Kádár
Lectured by Kenneth Baldonieri