Day hospitals – an ideal alternative for children

Having a child who is unwell is difficult at the best of times for all parents, but even more stressful is the possibility of hospitalisation. Any parent who is faced with the reality of a child being hospitalised should consider a day hospital.

Day hospitals treat most of the common ailments that affect children and it is preferable to have any necessary procedures performed in a day hospital as the overall experience is far less traumatic. Going to the hospital can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone, but children, in particular, experience heightened anxiety.

Bibi Goss-Ross, group operational manager at Advanced Health, which runs a network of day hospitals around the country says that most parents are not aware that a day hospital is a viable option for children in many surgical cases.

“The concept of day hospitals is still relatively new locally but people are beginning to wake up to this convenient and cost effective healthcare service option.”

She says that South Africa lags behind at 13 percent against their international peers (70 percent) in as far as the utilisation of day hospitals is concerned.

“It is important to emphasise that day hospitals should not be confused with conventional clinics. Day hospitals are specially designed to function like the larger hospitals with state-of-the-art theatre equipment and highly trained staff appropriate for the suite of surgical procedures that are regularly undertaken at these facilities. Children making use of these facilities benefit from quality care supported by caring staff and dedicated specialists using modern technology in a family-type warm atmosphere,” says Goss-Ross.

No overnight stays

Day hospitals are, as the name suggests, used solely for medical procedures that do not require overnight hospital stays. Having to sleep in a strange environment, without their parents, can be a distressing experience for children. At day hospitals, children can return home after their procedure once the doctor is sure that there will be no complications. Even if the doctor orders bed rest, relaxing in the home environment with someone to look after them encourages healing and reduces stress. Another critical factor to consider is the risk of infection which is significantly reduced in day hospitals due to shorter stays. Patients leave the hospital with a firm and agreed plan in place.

Friendlier environment

Day hospitals tend to be fairly small (definitely not as large and overwhelming as general hospitals), with fewer staff and patients.  Because day hospitals do not treat patients with chronic illnesses and high risks (as they usually require overnight stays), the atmosphere is lighter, something which children pick upon fairly quickly.

The short-stay and effective nursing care improves the overall clinical outcome of a patient. The smaller intimate environment is beneficial to the patients – especially young children.

No long waiting period

Many of us are familiar with arriving at hospital before breakfast only to wait for hours before the medical procedure takes place. No one likes to wait for hours in a hospital, and waiting with children can be unbearable. Day hospitals are geared up to minimise waiting times, meaning that children will be in and out of the ward much faster than they would be otherwise.

Peace of mind

The combination of the fear of the unknown, a hospital’s overwhelming size, number of people, the treatment itself, and the possibility of parting with the parent may contribute to extreme anxiety in any child.  Psychologists have long stressed the importance of a relaxing environment for children’s emotional health and wellbeing and extreme anxiety (even short term anxiety) can have a lasting impact on your child’s recovery.  Doctors have also noted that people do not heal as well physically when they are under mental duress, and in the case of children, this may be particularly important. As children’s immune systems are still developing, severe mental stress can further compromise their body’s ability to protect itself from post-surgical infection, prolonging and possibly complicating physical healing. The more relaxed environment of day hospitals aims to lessen this anxiety and promote healing in children undergoing operative procedures.

Most surgical procedures can be carried out at day hospitals facilities for example: general surgery, dental and maxillo facial procedures, ear, nose and throat procedures, orthopaedic, pain management, ophthalmology and urology.