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MoH delivery fee hike boon for private hospitals

Sajila Saseendran / 11 January 2011

Expectant mothers in the Northern Emirates are now flocking to private hospitals offering cheaper rates to deliver their babies after the Ministry of Health doubled the fees for deliveries in its hospitals.

The rush at the labour room in Sharjah’s Al Qassimi Hospital, the most sought-after maternity facility under the Ministry of Health, has come down in just 10 days after the new fee structure came into effect on New Year’s Day.

The fee for assisting a natural childbirth was doubled from Dh2,500 to Dh5,000 and that for a Caesarean delivery was upped to Dh8,000 from Dh4,000. If the mothers do not have the ministry’s health cards, the charges are double the new rates.

A senior doctor with Al Qassimi Hospital revealed that the number of childbirths in the hospital so far this month had considerably reduced when compared to the figures for the same period in the last few months.

“We have delivered just 125 babies in these 10 days. That is much less than the number of deliveries we have had [on an average during the same period] in the past two months. In December, we delivered 505 babies and it was 456 in November. Now it looks like we will get back to our old figures of 300-350,” she told Khaleej Times.

The doctor said many of the pregnant women consulting the doctors at the hospital had already told them that they would be going to private hospitals because of the fee hike. “We don’t discourage them either,” she said.

However, Al Baraha Hospital, the ministry facility in Dubai, has not witnessed any drop in the number of deliveries after the new fees were introduced, said its director Ahmed Al Khaddem. The reason for this apparently is the fact that the fees in Al Baraha are still competitive compared to those at many private hospitals in Dubai.

For example, the American Hospital in Dubai charges Dh11,950 for a normal delivery with a two-day stay and Dh22,950 for a C-Section with a four-day stay, according to its website.

A shift to private hospitals for maternity services is mainly seen in the Northern Emirates where they are cashing in on the market scenario by offering cheaper rates. One of them has, in fact, started offering a reduction in the package for normal deliveries.

Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah, has recorded a 20 per cent increase in patients in its maternity wing after the facility slashed Dh500 in the package, said its Director for Administration Dr Vineet Luthra.  “We have reduced the price for the normal delivery package from Dh3,750 to Dh3,250. We have also included the medicines and other services in this comprehensive package. In that sense, the reduction is actually over Dh1,000,” he said.

The hospital, which, according to Dr Luthra, slashed the fees as a New Year gift to new moms, was also working on revising the fees for C-sections as well. “Currently it is Dh8,000 for a single room stay. It is already inclusive of the medicines etc. which will amount to around Dh1,000 to Dh1,500,” he said.

A nurse with the ministry-affiliated Shaikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman said women registered with the hospital were changing minds to opt for private hospitals for deliveries. “I think the major difference will be felt in the summer months when we see the highest number of planned deliveries. But, I’m sure there will be more complications in private hospitals if they are admitting too many patients,” she said.

The GMC Hospital in Ajman, which charges Dh2,300 for a normal delivery in a shared room and Dh5,050 for a C-section with a three-day stay has also reported an increase in the number of patients seeking its maternity services. However, a doctor in-charge of the labour room said it was too early to divulge the figures.

Meanwhile, the same group’s hospital in Fujairah, which currently offers the least-priced maternity packages, is receiving patients from various emirates. A hospital staff said the labour room receives women from Sharjah, Ajman and even from some parts of Dubai.

The hospital charges just Dh1,000 for a natural childbirth, provided the mother has made at least three paid consultation visits. Those without prior paid visits will have to pay Dh2,300 excluding the cost of medicine, room charge and consultation fee of doctors, she said.

sajila@khaleejtimes.com

 
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