New Recommendations to Improve Children's Healthcare in Hungary

As part of our campaign "I have a child with me," we conducted a unique survey of Hungarian healthcare institutions, submitting 64 public interest data requests to hospitals with maternity or children's wards.

Based on the results of its survey of Hungary's healthcare institutions, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union has prepared, with the contributions of doctors and parents, a series of professional recommendations and submitted the material to the government health authorities. The data collected from the survey has been developed into a public database.

You can read the summary of the Large Hospital Test, as it was called by the initiative, on HCLU's website. The proposals of the organization in every case serve the interests of the children born or treated at the hospital.

Based on the available data, it can be seen that basically two kinds of regulatory and financing problems obstruct the enforcement of children's rights in the country. Our watchdog organization is trying to solve these very problems.

Unified visiting protocol

First of all, HCLU calls on the state secretariat responsible for healthcare to develop a protocol in order to realize a unified and open regime of visiting hours. Before such a protocol is ready, executive managers responsible for developing hospital regulations are asked to follow the example of hospitals that ensure unlimited visiting.

HCLU's thematic page may help in familiarizing with such practices. The minimum conditions ensuring undisturbed visiting hours and patients' and visitors' right to health should be specified in the protocol. When laying down the rules, it is important to ensure the priority of the mother's choice and the interests of the newborn baby, as opposed to traditions and (reversible) rules.

Parental presence

With regard to providing care for minors, HCLU proposes to hospitals not to obstruct the presence of both parents during treatments and hospitalization, when they express such a wish.

Beyond changing the current practice, by way of further guarantee, the organization calls on the state secretariat to initiate an amendment of the legislation so that the relevant provision ensures that both parents or other close relatives are allowed to stay with the child.

As far as parental presence is concerned, it is important to determine that sitting on the child's bed or a stool is not considered accommodation, and they therefore cannot be charged for it. Charging for this amounts to the curtailing of a parent's right to maintain contact with their child.

By the same token, when the wearing of special clothing is made necessary due to hygiene reasons, the financial burden should not be on the parents. At a systemic level, financing constitutes a state's duty, and while waiting for the relevant decision, the support of foundations operating at hospitals is required.

Parents staying with their child cannot remain actors in the treatment process relegated to passivity — HCLU maintains the view that healthcare employees together with the parents should decide on the most appropriate solutions in considering the given circumstances.

Crucial tasks

The analysis of the data collected by HCLU led to important revelations and more accurate diagnoses. The results also suggest that authorities are facing several major urgent tasks.

The organization is asking the National Center of Patients' Rights and Documentation to review the existing practices in light of the survey and make the necessary steps in order to ensure unified conditions at all hospitals, and to ensure that the right to maintain contact is curtailed only in case of medical necessity (e.g. epidemic).

In considering all the above, HCLU believes that the national chief medical officer should give an order specifying the criteria to be applied by the leadership of institutions in reviewing their own regulations.

Joint efforts

HCLU, for its part, is going on with its job: it will repeat the examination at regular intervals, using new tools if needed. Enforcing children's rights, ensuring more effective and humane care, supporting the work of healthcare professionals — these all constitute important tasks requiring the joining of efforts and collective participation.

We want decision makers to create more accurate and sympathetic rules as well as to ensure that financing serves the improvement of conditions; hospital personnel to implement child-friendly practices; and parents to take an active part in the curing process.

We have long owed a debt to children in terms of ensuring the fulfillment of international obligations — HCLU's campaign "I have a child with me" wishes to contribute to settling the score.

The original article published in European Liberties Platform.

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