BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Tapping into the healing power of laughter, specially trained clowns will be hired by public hospitals in Argentina's largest province thanks to a new law that requires they be available to help treat child patients.
Andres Kogan, a pediatrician who oversees a hospital program with clowns, said Friday that the law passed last month would be implemented over the next several months.
Kogan said clowns don't just make children and their families feel better about being in a hospital, but also help doctors get information from children who are shy, have been abused or are not able to communicate for any reason.
Alejo Lacone, a 9-year-old left paralyzed after being hit by a car in March, is a good example of how that works. Because of a tracheotomy, the boy can't speak.
However, three clowns at the Central Hospital of Pediatrics Dr. Claudio Zin, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, are able to get him to smile by acting out in front of him. The clowns come to the hospital every Thursday, making the rounds to rooms with children.
"The clowns put on their noses and invite you to play with them," said hospital director Carlos Kambourian, adding that the therapeutic method is based on one used by Miami Children's Hospital.
Ludmila Arredes, Alejo Lacone's 19-year-old cousin, said the clowns have given the child something to look forward to.
"Since the clowns began coming, the nurses have noticed a difference, and so they have asked that they come more frequently," she said.
Under the law, hospitals will have wide leeway to decide how many clowns come and how frequently.
The province of Buenos Aires is home to about 15 million people and has more than 70 public hospitals. It borders the separate city of Buenos Aires.