Hong Kong became a signatory to UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the child in 1994. In 1998 the Hong Kong Committee for the Rights of the child developed a Charter for children in hospitals as follows:
- Children shall be admitted to hospital only if the care they require cannot be provided equally well at home or on a day basis.
- Children in hospital shall be able to have their parents with them at all times, provided this is in the child’s best interests. Accommodation shall be offered to all parents whenever possible and they should be helped and encouraged to stay. In order to share in the care of their child, parents shall be fully informed about ward routines and their active participation shall be encouraged.
- Children shall enjoy the care of appropriately trained staff who are fully aware of the physical and emotional needs of each age group.
- Children shall be cared for with other children of the same age group.
- Children and/or their parents shall be provided with information appropriate to their age and understanding.
- Children and/or their parents shall be able to participate in all decisions involving health care and shall be provided with the relevant information for making decisions.
- Children shall be treated with tact and understanding, and their privacy shall be respected. Children shall be protected from unnecessary medical treatment and shall be given aid in the prevention and relief of physical and emotional distress.
- Children shall be able to wear their own clothes whenever possible and have their own personal possessions.
- Children shall be in an environment that is furnished and equipped for their requirements. The setting for the care of children shall conform to recognized standards of safety and supervision.
- Children shall have the opportunity for play, recreation and education suited to their age and condition.
These standards should have been implemented in all private and public hospitals. In practice, more than twenty years later, many have failed to comply with the Charter, and do not even have any written policies on the ten principles.
In particular we continue to see cases in which parents are refused or discouraged from staying with their children after admission to hospital. A variety of reasons are given to justify exclusion of parents. In many cases we find there is no medical justification. In addition it is frequently hospital practice to separate parents from their children when the child is to go through traumatic or painful procedures such as induction of anaesthetic, lumbar punctures or siting of IV’s.
One of the major practical difficulties is the lack of overnight accommodation for parents. Wooden camp beds are uncomfortable cumbersome, unhygienic and most importantly in short supply. To fund and source simple hygienic foam mattresses and bedding to allow a parent or carer to stay with any young child who is admitted to hospital – whilst causing as little disruption to the clinical work of the ward as possible.
To translate appropriate materials to educate doctors, nurses and parents as to the devastating traumatic and long term effects of separation of young children from their carers – particularly during illness.
To encourage all health care institutions to audit their compliance with the Charter for children in hospital and publish the results on their websites
What can you do?
Expressions of support for this project would be very helpful. If you have personal story we would like to hear it. If you would like to act as a charter for children ambassador we can provide you with an information pack with research material about the effects of separation on children about current status of the charter for children in other countries and any facts we have about current Hong Kong practice.