Children visiting the sick, at the hospitals

Originally posted on 8th November 2008

During the visiting hours at hospitals, we see several kids going in and coming out of hospital wards, visiting members of their  family and friends who are admitted for treatment. Their numbers are not small. I presume, based on personal observations that the numbers are high enough to be concerned about potential pubic health implications of the practice.

Hospitals harbor a multitude of micro-organisms that have the potential to cause deadly infections. A significant number of patients across the world, are known to acquire very severe forms of bacterial infections, and even contagious viral illnesses, during their stay in hospitals. Unfortunately, a very high proportion of them have suffered grave consequences as a result of such infections.

The pathogenic  organisms (those with the potential to cause illness) are found everywhere within the hospitals. The walls, furniture, floor, files, folders, door handles, curtains, TV remotes or almost every other object within the walls of the hospital probably carry enough pathogens to propagate an illness. Most hospitals regularly run bacterial detection tests on swabs taken from such surfaces to study the nature of organisms that are residents of the environment. Local hospitals run such tests from time to time. Such tests invariably detect disease causing bacteria. While it is true that, based on such reports, various disinfection measures are implemented to try to cleanse the area, it is also true that despite the best efforts, these pathogens persist.

It is to this pathogen laden environment that many of our children are exposed to when they visit the sick at the hospital! Children, more so than healthy adults, are likely to acquire infections from this environment, or from the child or adult whom they are visiting. 

I still remember, a few years back, hospitals used to restrict entry to wards of young children to visit the sick! However, today I do not see such a restriction in practice. Several children, including some very young infants will be seen entering the wards as visitor, most with their parents.

Every few months, Male’ has seen one or more outbreaks of infectious diseases, especially among children. Among many other factors, I expect, if studies are conducted, the practice of taking children to hospital to visit the sick, would be a significant contributor to the spread of illnesses in Male’.

Having to take kids to the hospital to seek care when they are sick and unwell is important, but taking them to such an infection prone environment without a clear need for them to be there is irresponsible. While hospitals need to work on improving cleanliness, hygiene and infection safety within their premises for both patients and hospital visitors, we as parent, must too prevent our kids from being exposed to nasty hospital acquired or in-hospital transmitted infections.

I would urge parents to be aware of the potential dangers of this unhealthy practices and put a stop to them in the future. I also urge hospital administrations to review their policies and the implementation of the policies on children visiting the sick at their hospital.