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Mumbai: A chauffeur-driven car to pick you and your child up from home is a service you could expect from a five-star hotel. But don’t be surprised if the business-class package is soon offered by your paediatrician too. That’s not all, the doctor could also help you liaise with a nutritionist to chart your tot’s diet, get you a discounted baby car-seat or send his assistant to vaccinate your child in the comfort of your home.

“Today, couples in Mumbai are so busy that we want to help them with atleast one aspect-health and safety of their children- even if it means spoon feeding to them. We are emphasizing the concept of a ‘well child’ where a Childs growth and development milestones, food and play get priority as against just treating his/her illnesses,” says paediatrician Nihar Parekh who along with his father Pankaj Parekh set up a childcare clinic at Kemps Corner recently. The clinic offers package deals replete with pick-ups, tie-ups with baby stores and home visits.
He is a part of the small segment of city doctors who are going all out to woo young patients, albeit niche crowd, with snazzy technology and toys, themed clinics and spoil-yourself-silly indulgences. While some say the child-friendly touch makes hospitals less “scary” for kids, others insist it distracts them from their illnesses.

Pediatric dentist, Dr. Shalini Pradhan, whose Juhu clinic boasts of a video game console, swears distraction works in dental treatment. She has an LCD screen mounted on the ceiling. So, kids recline in the dentist’s chair and plug into their videogames, oblivious to her toiling away in their tiny mouths.

Kid’s wings in hospital

A video console in dentist Shalini Pradhan’s helps distract tots from their ailment. “They get so engrossed in their game that they sit still and don’t even realize that I’ve plucked out a tooth or done a root canal,” says Shalini Pradhan.

Mikhael Kazi, 12, who lives in Juhu-Versova and consults her for his braces treatment, thinks its “fun” as it gives him something to do. Dr Pradhan says her experience with her two sons sparked the idea, as she shows offs her latest muse- a video I-Pod that transports child patients into a world of music. As part of the child-friendly transition, white walls are splashed with bright reds, yellows and blues and intimidating metal instruments kept out of sight. Waiting rooms are scattered with toys, books and not-adult magazines.

The makeover is palpable in pediatric wing at Asian Heart Institute (AHI) in the Badra-Kurla Complex, one of the first private hospitals to turn child-friendly nearly four years ago. Public hospitals too followed suit by allowing students from JJ school of arts to liven upo the walls with their paintings.

The purpose is to create a soothing environment, explains Dr. Ramankant Panda, CEO of AHI as he runs through how the aquarium or consulting rooms shaped in the form of giraffes and hippopotamuses take children’s mind off their sickness. At one end stands a play area with plastic slides, moonwalks, videogames and colorful balloons floating around.

The trait sticks for around for two-year-old Nivaan from Napean Sea Road who heads straight for the wooden horse in the play area at CCC. “He has been complaining of a throat ache and I told him we’d come here. He agreed so enthusiastically that I am afraid he’s going to fake a stomach ache to get here next time,” says mother Zankhana Shroff (27).

The clinic takes the mantra to dizzying heights. Not only just the receptionist move around with a touch-pad, but also clicks Polaroid pictures of every mother and child on their first visit. For busy dads, high-tech cameras ensure that they can observe their kids from their workplaces via the internet. While consultancy involves usual cost, the business packages could of course come with the price tags of anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs. 75,000.

Dr. Panda said that the child-friendly concept is nascent in Mumbai, but it is the norm in the hospitals abroad. The department of health in England has even drafted guidelines for it, which includes dedicated child units in emergency sections and food to suit children’s palates.
Old-timers say these are the signs of changing times. “In the days of competition everyone wants to offer that extra bit more,” says senior pediatrician Dr. Y Ambedkar. While he thinks a child-friendly ambience that doesn’t come at a higher price is welcome, particularly in a well-baby clinic, he wonders if unwell children or their parents would be in a frame of mind of these distractions. “The key is to reduce waiting time of patients,” he says.

But skeptics worry about exposure of children to consumerism. Dr. Pradhan says some parents say they want to keep their kids away from video games. “People who can afford can enjoy such comforts, but they create exclusiveness in a city like ours, where many struggle for basic healthcare,” says, TISS director S Parsuraram.

Source – Monday, 20 October, 2008, Times of India, Mumbai

Clinics role out red carpet for kids