This lack of resources combined with illness and poverty make the work of the Hospital Clowns here (and other art-in-health therapies) both all the more challenging and all the more vital. It is hard to believe that the Hospital de Niños Dr. Ricardo Gutierréz was the first in the world to allow parents to accompany their children in hospital, when now in 2016, there seems to be so little concession to the emotional needs of children here. As Andres Kogan (Alegria Intensiva director) so eloquently says in his TEDx talk, children's hospitals were built with Doctors in mind, not children.
In fact, the Hospital de Niños Dr. Ricardo Gutierréz doesn't seem like a children's hospital at all. No murals, or colour on the walls. No play areas. And while it is certainly true that drawings on the walls and colouring-in books do not make a child friendly hospital on their own, surely they take the edge off what is otherwise a brutally adult and unwelcoming space? The State here doesn't/can't prioritise funding programmes in hospitals that focus on protecting the basic and intrinsic characteristics of childhood.
In Scotland, as well as us Clowndoctors, Health Play Specialists, teachers, story tellers, music therapists, therapets, and of course personal televisions, dvd players and computer games all form part of a holistic approach to care. All of these things combined mean that a stay in hospital for any length of time, in theory, should not have a negative impact on the development and well-being of the child. And of course even with all of these resources, even with bright white sheets, wide, well-lit corridors, big windows - being ill and in hospital can be and often still is a traumatic life event.
In the end, it all boils down to resources. Alegría Intensiva made a decision early on not to seek any funding from the state for the work they do in hospitals here, as they knew that it would be unpopular amongst healthcare staff and Trade Unions. Why pay a Hospital Clown when excellent, hardworking healthcare staff are barely able to deliver adequate care due to a massive lack of resources? We sometimes come up against this argument in Scotland, but we can safely say that the funding from hospitals that we receive does not take away any funding from any healthcare staff or healthcare resource. The fact that Healthcare Units in Scotland make a contribution to the Clowndoctor or Elderflower presence on their wards is part of Hearts and Minds' strategy for better integration in these units. Alegria Intensiva are totally clear that their artists are specially trained professionals who are paid as such, but to ask for a contribution from hospitals would damage their relations with the healthcare staff they visit, and the publics' perception of the work they do.
Perhaps the biggest thing they do as far as Integration into the healthcare environment goes, is to deliver consistently high quality work.
More on this next time ;)