Wellness & Fitness

Why Kenyans are turning to private facilities for maternity services

aar

AAR Hospital, a maternity ward that has quad rooms and single rooms, all ensuite ensuring the dignity of the patient is achieved whilst receiving medical care. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

The demand for private maternity services is growing. Women looking for a birthing place are no longer just contented with a hospital whose staff is competent to deliver their babies safely. They want to be pampered and their stay to be a pleasant memory.

Hospitals in Kenya, in keeping a finger on the pulse of the healthcare sector, have been hiving off sections to offer a home-away-from-home experience.

Years ago, there were only two hospitals that were offering private maternity wards which have separate rooms with crystal chandeliers, cozy leather couches for guests, foldable extra beds for the spouse, ensuite bathrooms with bathtubs, a private lounge, free Wi-Fi, and hotel-like a la carte meals at the patient’s beck and call.

Now in Nairobi alone, about six hospitals are offering private maternity services as new entrants roll out multibillion-shilling expansion projects to entice pregnant women and their partners who have the means to pay over Sh250,000 for a childbirth stay.

At AAR Hospital, I meet Frida and Allan. They spent two months shopping for a conducive maternity room in various hospitals. As first-time parents, they say, choosing where to give birth was a big decision for them. In one of the wards, which looks like a studio apartment, the new mother and father sit cozily as their newborn sleeps in a white baby cot nearby.

“When you’re delivering, you’re in one of your most vulnerable states. At the same time, it’s also a life-changing and important stage in a woman’s life. For the hospital, it was important for any expectant woman that comes through our doors to feel like a VIP, to be comfortable, and to have access to a high level of privacy,” says Dr Aysha Edwards-Remy, the Head of Clinical Services says of the Kiambu Road-based AAR which opened a year ago and charges Sh18,000 a day for the private ensuite.

Incentives

Prof Moses Obimbo, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Avenue Hospital in Nairobi, which charges Sh17,500 a day for a private room, says because of the seclusion, the private rooms reduce the chances of infections.

“There is increased confidentiality and personalised comforts such as watching the TV programme you want, and arranging the space as you wish,” he says.

For parents-to-be, the incentives are clear. Women want companionship in the maternity wards too and in private wards, the partners are now welcome to stay as well.

Some women say the choice to have a partner in the room with the newborn from day one helps them feel like men are involved in the whole childbirth process and it eases anxiety. It also eases the transition between the hospital and home, making it less overwhelming once they are discharged.

The pandemic also drove up the demand for private wards as pregnant women sought to reduce contact with many people in hospitals. Those with means preferred private or semi-private rooms which cost Sh13,500 a day, besides doctor’s fees and theatre charges, to the general ward which host up to 20 patients.

Hospitals are therefore ensuring patients’ experiences are curated not only so that things run smoothly, but to steward the creation of pleasant memories.

Hospital parties

Aga Khan University Hospital and Nairobi Hospital have been the go-to hospitals for couples seeking private maternity services. Aga Khan University Hospital has executive rooms and private rooms. Princess Zahra Pavilion’s executive room goes for Sh65,700, while its private room goes for Sh41,000. Private rooms in the main maternity wing cost Sh33,050.

“Here, the patient’s family and friends can hold a small, celebratory party for the new gift of life,” says Fraciah Maina, a nurse, and midwife at the hospital. Dr Mwaniki Mukainda, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the hospital, empasises that opting for private does not mean patients get better medical care than others.

“It means that your choice of accommodation is what you prefer. You can stay at the Pavilion or the main maternity wing. Every woman who chooses to birth at the Aga Khan Hospital will be accorded the same, high-level standard of care during labour and delivery,” he says.

[email protected]