SHARJAH // Some residents of the Northern Emirates are asking that recent changes in baby-delivery fees at government hospitals be reversed, saying they cannot afford them.
A circular from the Ministry of Health notifying residents of the fee increase was distributed after the cabinet approved the move, which is designed to offset increasing costs of medicines, equipment and supplies. Fees for both natural deliveries and Caesarian sections doubled for patients with health cards.
The move caught some parents-to-be short. Abdul Salam Hafeez, a Syrian national, set aside Dh2,500 for his wife's delivery in Sharjah. Their baby arrived eight minutes into the new year, and the couple received a bill for Dh5,000.
"We had our first baby two years back and have had relatives and friends giving birth in the same hospital, and the fee was Dh2,500," he said. "I never expected it could double just minutes into another year."
Mohammed Tawfiq, an Egyptian resident of Sharjah, tells a similar story. His second child is due in about a month and he is already stressing over how he will pay the higher fees.
"I am only praying she has a natural delivery," he said. "All I can tell to the ministry is, please reconsider this pricing. It's too much for us in the Northern Emirates." It is unfair for expatriates in Abu Dhabi to pay the same as people living in Umm al Quwain or Ajman, as their income levels are completely different, he said.
The increases were put into effect in response to recommendations from the Ministry of Finance to cover the costs of the rising number of births and the associated expenses, said Khalid Majid Lootah, the health ministry's assistant undersecretary for institutional and support services, as quoted in the circular.
Caesarian deliveries increased to Dh8,000 from Dh4,000. For those without health insurance, costs for both kinds of deliveries have doubled, to Dh10,000 for a regular delivery and Dh16,000 for a Caesarian.
The fees were not made to increase income, Mr Lootah said. The Ministry of Health is a Federal authority that provides health services and does not seek to make a profit, he said.