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Free childbirth for Shaanxi's poor
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-04-29 07:42

XI'AN: As part of a maternity grant project, pregnant women living in the rural areas of northwest China's Shaanxi province will be able to deliver children "free of cost" from next month.

The project, which begins on May 1, will cover the province's 104 counties and districts and include a large rural population, according to the Shaanxi provincial health bureau.

Each pregnant woman will get an average grant of 800 yuan ($117) for childbirth, the bureau said, adding that a total of 224 million yuan had been budgeted for the project this year alone.

"Rural pregnant women will receive proper services in hospitals, which have been approved by the health authorities, with state-of-the-art equipment and technologies," said Yang Fuying, the bureau's deputy director.

He added that township clinics, which lack proper technology and equipment, "will be banned from performing complicated and cesarean section deliveries" in order to ensure the safety of the mother and child.

Many poverty-stricken farmers in the slow-developing province have been forced to have their children delivered at home as the cost of childbirth in hospitals was too expensive.

The home deliveries, usually performed in unsuitable conditions, have reportedly caused gynecologic and neonatal diseases, and have sometimes even resulted in the death of the mothers and babies in the province.

Wang Huixia, a pregnant woman, who lives in the Chang'an district in Xi'an, the province's capital, said she was happy that she could access free medical facilities for her baby's delivery in July.

"My sister-in-law gave birth to her daughter at home two years ago, and she has suffered from various gynecologic diseases ever since. I was dreading I might have to go through the same trauma," a visibly relieved Wang said.

Unless the women choose unnecessary services which are not part on the list, the cost of their stay in hospital during childbirth will be covered, the health bureau said.

"Women who develop serious obstetric complications during delivery will be entitled to a fixed grant of 2,000 yuan each," Yang said.

The project aims to take the rate of hospital deliveries to at least 95 percent in every provincial county by 2012.

(China Daily 04/29/2009 page5)