ON AIR: Zahaara (right) is a patient at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital and a reporter for RX Radio. Picture: Red Cross Children’s Hospital

Cape Town - The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town plays an important role in improving the health and lifting the spirits of ill children. Now the hospital has added a children’s radio station to its list of achievements.

RX Radio is one of the first radio stations in Africa involving child patients as producers, reporters and presenters. The project which cost R4.8-million was made possible through fund-raising by the Children’s Hospital Trust. RX radio had its first live broadcast on Saturday from their new studio inside the hospital. It officially opened on Friday. Dr Gabriel Urgoiti said the station is hosted by and for children.

“This pioneering project aims to alleviate the stress, loneliness and anxiety that many children face in hospital and improve their experiences of hospital in multiple ways. It will also aid parents, health workers and other children to better understand the experience of hospital and illness and enhance communication.

“While there are a number of children’s hospital radio stations globally, what makes RX Radio unique, is that it involves patients as programme producers and broadcast presenters with the explicit aim of sharing and improving children’s experiences of illness and hospital,” Urgoiti said.

The station is the brainchild of Urgoiti and Sue Valentine, a health journalist. The station has been established by collaborating with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Facility Board and the Children’s Hospital Trust. The station will assist children in gaining access to recreational and learning activities and sensitise parents and health workers to children’s experiences of illness and hospital.

“Children have the right to know as much as possible about matters that affect them, to understand and to be involved with their illness and the health care provided to them. They need information about the hospital environment and what is expected, their health condition, diagnostic procedures and treatment options, possible outcomes of these treatments, degree of likely pain and discomfort, and above all to be able to ask questions and be reassured of the support and care they will receive from their parents, caregivers and health workers. They also need to be entertained and to have fun,” said Urgoiti.

The child-produced radio is a rapidly developing field, with preliminary evidence pointing to many positive outcomes for both children and adults.

Chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Trust Louise Driver says, “The Children’s Hospital Trust strives to advance child health care through the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and this innovative and empowering project is the ideal platform. It gives some control to the children in what could otherwise feel (like) quite a helpless situation. It also, quite literally, gives them a voice.”

Cape Argus