Children living on the city’s streets often find it difficult to get treatment at public hospitals and sometimes end up paying bribes to ward boys and ayahs to get immediate attention, a survey has found.
Non-governmental organisation YUVA (Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action) interviewed 128 homeless children living around railway stations to understand the factors affecting their health.
YUVA decided to conduct this survey as more than 50 per cent of the 12,119 calls made by streetchildren to the children’s helpline — 1098 — between 2003 and 2005 were for medical assistance.
Ninety-eight children interviewed had suffered from some illness last year. Six of them did not go to a hospital and the others said they had bad experience when they went to hospitals for treatment.
“Almost 70 per cent of them said they had to spend between Rs 55 and Rs 300 during their visit and many said they had paid bribes to receive treatment,” said researcher Denny John.
“For these children, even paying the mandatory Rs 10 to get the case paper made when one enters a civic hospital, is difficult. They said they avoid going to hospitals till they are really unwell,” said Mary Arokia from YUVA.
Many of them expressed fear of going to hospitals because they could not understand the instructions written in Hindi and English and because the doctors were “uncaring”.
Based on the findings, YUVA and other NGOs plan to approach the municipal corporation to request it to waive the minor hospital charges for streetchildren and set up help desks to guide them.
The NGOs will also distribute handbooks among the hospital staffers to sensitise them.
“We will request the BMC to send a circular to dispensaries and hospitals, instructing them to deal with streetchildren in a sensitive manner,” said Arokia.