The reason that I came to Buenos Aires in the first place was the law that was passed in August last year, 'Incorporando al sistema de Salud la labor del payaso de hospital' (Incorporation of Hospital Clowns into the Health System). From the UK it seemed extremely exciting - were hospital clowns really so valued by society that their presence in hospitals should become law? Was this something that had been campaigned for by children, parents, doctors, healthcare staff? Had hospital clown organisations in Buenos Aires been lobbying parliament?
None of these things (my experience of the integration and perception of healthcare clowns here has been very similar to that at home). So why was it approved, or even tabled in the first place? Apparently, nothing more than a last minute project of Ruben Dario Golia at the end of his term in office - having watched Patch Adams, and fallen in love with the concept, it was an uncontroversial and populist move. An easy law to get passed.
But far from celebrating, Alegria Intensiva instinctively saw it as a potential disaster for Hospital Clowning. They made sure that they were involved with the consultation process, and got to a place where they were at least happy that it was 'sensata' (sensible). It now ensures that Hospital Clowns should be fully trained, professional clowns who have further training in the specifics of healthcare clowning, and that they are paid. For Alegria Intensiva and other hospital clown ONG's working in similar ways in Buenos Aires, it was important to protect the professionalism of Hospital Clowning. They saw that a law that didn't have this at its heart would surely open the floodgates to undertrained people, and however good their intentions or big their hearts, this could only be damaging for the reputation of the profession.
Even in its current state, Mariano Rozales (Director, Alegria Intensiva) maintains that the law would only serve 'para que la gente nos odie', (to make people hate us), 'When the basic priorities of society are not being met, the hospital clown law would only serve to destroy the profession'. Healthcare trade unions are fighting all the time for adequate resources and working conditions in the province of Buenos Aires. Any law that appeared to prioritise Clowns over healthcare staff would be a disaster, however well they were doing their job.
As it happens, soon after the law was was approved, but before the regulation process, the Government changed hands, and when the new Governor came into power, they declared the sate of Buenos Aires to be 'quebrada' (broken). The Hospital Clown law of the province of Buenos Aires is currently so far down the list of governmental priorities it will likely never see the light of day. And as far as Alegria Intensiva is concerned, that is cause for great relief.
What would a similar law, or endorsement from Government mean for us in the UK?
When I first heard about it - compulsory Hospital Clowns! - it seemed like the pinnacle of societal acceptance. After all, government approval should come as a response to the needs and wants of it's people. But of course, a law being passed, that has not come from that place, is at best, meaningless, and at worst, damaging. As it is, Hospital clowns in the UK do have access to children's hospitals, and have done for over 10 years. Being in hospitals is not the issue. It is more the general, societal view of what we do as a profession, a tool in the box of other integrational healthcare therapies, that I am personally interested in increasing.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.