One of the biggest concerns for young parents is the health of their little ones. Just as the pleasure of seeing a child grow has few equals, watching them suffer during their illness has few equals in pain. The problem is somewhat muted when there is elderly support at home. The experience of the earlier generation in seeing through such difficult times acts as a balm to the young couple. If such comfort is not available to young parents, they are left to fend for themselves and see the child recover to normal health. It need not be any serious illness that requires long hospitalization; even a bout of severe cold or fever makes young parents very uncomfortable. The problem is even more acute for parents who are both working, with similar working hours.
Forty years ago, health care was not this advanced. Working women with no elderly support at home had to take the help of creche or daycare facilities to tend to babies and toddlers when they were to be away at offices. These centers neither had adequate facilities for tending to sick children nor was any element of professionalism in running them. These were run by either people who desired to supplement their incomes or those with service mind to some extent, save for rare exceptions. Income levels of working mothers was also not sufficient to afford good daycare facilities. A sudden telephone call from the creche (mobiles were not heard of then) would make the mother (or father in some cases) drop all the work at the office and run to the creche to take the child home. Caretakers were naturally not willing to risk the health of other kids by holding back a sick child.
With the sick child at home now, the parents had to wait for the doctor's shop to open for medical help. They had to wait in the normal line with other patients. Each moment of wait at the clinic was a torture for them. The medicines prescribed by the doctor were sometimes not available at the Medical Shop. There were instances when the parent had to search the entire area by going from shop to shop to get the prescribed medicine. The medicines had some side effects as well. When the problem became acute in the middle of the night, waiting till the morning for the doctor's shop to open was indeed an endless wait for the anxious parents.
Parents were much better prepared for dealing with sickness of the second child. The invaluable experience in dealing with the troubles of the first child would have given them both strength and patience to manage the situations. Suffering was no less now, but the ability to withstand the suffering would have increased. We all old timers went through these anxious days at one time or the other.
Observing developed childcare facilities today is indeed an experience. Cost of treatment has no doubt increased manifold, but income levels have also gone up at least for some sections of the society. Medical insurance has become an important part of our lives and provides some relief to sick patients and young parents. The type of facilities provided and support extended by hospitals in advanced countries is indeed an indicator of the quality of life there. Some visits to the childcare hospitals accompanying young mothers and their kids recently was a very educative and heartening experiences. Some of the highlights are as under:
- Records of the child's birth and all subsequent visits are maintained by the children hospitals on their computers. The information can be viewed by the parents as well. There is no need for searching volumes of paper records when you take a sick child to the hospital in an emergency.
- All details of immunization requirements are mapped in advance and available for scheduling appointments at the appropriate time. In case of difficulties, appointments can be changed over phone.
- Medication is generally discouraged and the emphasis is on developing natural immunity. Taking the child immediately to the hospital is also somewhat discouraged. Anxious parents can speak to the nurse or hospital for guidance. For normal cold or fever, no medication is recommended. A child is to be taken only if the temperature crosses 105* F.
- Parents can call the helpline and summon ambulance with paramedics at all times of day and night.
- Emergency facilities are open 24 hours and sick child is attended immediately.
- There are separate waiting rooms for children with regular appointments and those who arrive on sickness emergencies. Mixing of sick kids with other children is totally avoided.
- There are a series of examination rooms at the centre. A trained nurse receives the child in one of these rooms and checks temperature, weight and other desired parameters. The details are fed to the computers in the room and the nurse proceeds to the other room to see the next child.
- The Pediatrician arrives thereafter and verifies the data in the computer before examining the child. The examination is courteous and smooth.
- There is no dispensing of medicine through paper prescriptions. The doctor enters the details of the medicines, method of administration and time intervals in the computer. Details of the items are mailed to a pharmacy of the parent's choice immediately.
- Sick child and the parent do not come into contact with other children and parents at the centre in examination rooms as well.
- By the time the parent drives the child to the Pharmacy on the way home, pharmacy keeps the items ready for delivery. The parent can pick up the prescribed medicine from the Pharmacy on the way home.
- In case of any problem of dispensing the prescribed item by the pharmacy, the issue is sorted out by the pharmacy with the doctor directly.
- There is no requirement for payment at the pharmacy if the amount payable is within the insurance coverage available for the child. Only the difference amount is to be paid in case of necessity.
- Pharmacies have drive-in facilities for picking up medicine. This prevents the parent from taking out the child from the car seat and take it inside the pharmacy. There is least inconvenience to the child and this also helps in avoiding contact with others at the Pharmacy.
- Follow-up medical care can be had through telephone contact with the centre.
Some of these facilities may be available at major cities in our country. But smaller centers are still a long way to go. Availability of such facility in all places would enhance quality of life for all citizens.