While globally the trend is to postpone pregnancies, hospitals in the UAE are reporting rising numbers of delivery cases.
Impacted by the slowdown and non-availability of bookings, families with pregnant women are queuing up in hospitals with the cheapest delivery packages.
The director of a leading private hospital in Ajman says its gynaecology and childbirth section has been very busy these days and there is a considerable increase in the number of pregnancies handled.
“These days our delivery section is busy because we get pregnant women from as far as Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and even Oman. They find the rates and service very attractive. We handled more than 3,500 deliveries last year and this year the number could be 4,500,” said Moideen Thumbay, Director, Thumbai Group, which operates the GMC Hospital and Research Center, Ajman.
GMC Ajman handles 18 to 20 deliveries every day during the peak season and half of the customers come from other emirates and neighbouring countries such as Oman.
“Economic recession has, in fact, helped our hospital because many cost-conscious families are coming to Ajman for delivery. GMC package for a normal delivery is only Dh2,000, which includes three-day stay in the hospital.
“The cost in other private hospitals will not be less than Dh4,500. Some of the hospitals in Dubai charge Dh10,000. We have doctors from all nationalities and we are looking forward to the busiest child delivery period - September to December,” said Thumbay.
Major private hospitals charge between Dh10,000 and 20,000 or more for deliveries.
There are long queues in government hospitals and the GMC delivery package rate is Dh500 less than the cost in the biggest government hospital in adjacent Sharjah.
A source, a doctor in Al Qassimiya Hospital Sharjah, said the gynaecology section is always booked to full capacity.
“This year we have seen a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the number of pregnant women arriving at the hospital. We charge Dh2,500 per delivery, but it is quite impossible to get appointments.
“Patients have to book three months into pregnancy and most of the time we are unable to admit people who have not booked in advance. Even in emergency cases, some are turned down.”
The source, however, said the increase in the number of pregnant women
reaching government hospitals may not be due to an increase in pregnancy rate during recession, but cost-conscious families looking for affordable child delivery packages.
Al Wasl Hospital in Dubai has been the preferred choice of many opting for delivery in a government hospital, but the department is always overbooked. Other options include Al Maktoum and Rashid hospitals, which are also busy.
Delivery is normally not covered by insurance.
“Even for expatriate families, this is a suitable package. The minimum cost of a delivery in a decent Indian hospital is Rs24,000, which is almost equal to our rate. Therefore, many Asian expatriate families, especially Indians and Pakistanis, who plan their pregnancy during the summer vacation stay back in the UAE and get the deliveries done in GMC,” said Thumbay.
Last year, GMC Hospital in Fujairah reduced the price of delivery packages through an initiative of the Red Crescent. Discounts are offered to increase the number of patients visiting the hospital, help families curb growing hospital expenses for delivery and to help expatriate families have their babies in the UAE.
Birth rate is seen by experts as a good economic indicator. In the US, a country worst hit by recession, birth rate has fallen to its lowest level in at least a century as many people apparently decided they could not afford more mouths to feed, latest figures released by the US National Center for Health Statistics showed.
The US birth rate fell to 13.5 births for every 1,000 people last year. That is down from 14.3 in 2007. The birth rate dropped for the second year in a row since the recession began in 2007. Births fell 2.6 per cent last year even as the population grew.
According to Euromoney, birth rate in the UAE fell by two thirds between 1980 and 2010. Marriages have been postponed due to the high cost involved in getting married.