Radio by kids for kids

Young patients at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital are set to surf the radio waves with the imminent launch of a R4.8m project to help them broadcast from the hospital.

RX Radio, running out of a new studio at the hospital, is one of the first children’s hospital radio stations in Africa.

The young patients will be producers, reporters and presenters.

The station, which goes live on Saturday May 20, is a pioneering project to ease the stress, loneliness and anxiety many children face in hospital.

The brainchild of Dr Gabriel Urgoiti and Sue Valentine, the station has been established in partnership with the hospital’s facility board as well as the Children’s Hospital Trust, which is raising money for the project.

“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,” said Dr Urgoiti.

The station will also give sick children a way to share their experiences, concerns and questions with parents, health professionals and other children; help sick children cope better with their illnesses and improve their wellbeing.

“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 healthcare 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,” Dr Urgoiti said.

The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital was built in 1956 and remains a cornerstone of child health care in southern Africa.

The hospital is the first stand-alone tertiary hospital in sub-Saharan Africa, dedicated entirely to children and manages 260 000 patient visits each year. The majority of these patients are from poor communities and one third are younger than a year old.

Dr Urgoiti said: “There is also increasing recognition of the value that a child’s perspective can offer in order to improve hospital environments and experiences for children.”

Louise Driver, CEO of the Children’s Hospital Trust, said the radio station was an “empowering project” that would advance children’s health care.

“It gives some control to the children in what could otherwise feel quite a helpless situation. It also, quite literally, gives them a voice. We are so grateful to all of the donors and stakeholders who have made this project a reality and we are looking forward to its first broadcast,” she said.