Uncertainty looms for expectant mothers with Sharjah hospital's closure

The sudden closure of Central Private Hospital leaves expectant mothers in the lurch, with many having already paid for the medical fees in advance.

Sharjah // Expectant mothers who are about to give birth have been left in the lurch by the abrupt closure of the hospital that cared for them during pregnancy.

Many have paid medical fees to the hospital in advance, and now face the twin dilemma of being out of pocket and having to find somewhere else to have their babies without access to their medical records.

The 60-bed Central Private Hospital was ordered to close on Saturday after Ministry of Health inspectors found it had too few doctors and nurses and inadequate medical equipment.

Patients who turned up for doctors’ appointments on Sunday found the doors padlocked. Yesterday they were joined by expectant mothers worried about what they should do next.

“I have already passed my due date but I still have no contractions so I came today to see my doctor and instead found this,” said Ayesha Mai, 23, from Pakistan.

Mrs Mai’s due date was January 18. She paid Dh1,400 of her Dh3,000 bill in advance, and fears she has lost that money.

“I will now have to try to go to Al Qasimi hospital and see what can be done there, but I am so sad and troubled about this,” she said.

Central Private Hospital administrators refuse to say why outpatients were not notified of the closure in advance, or what has happened to patients’ cash payments and medical records.

The hospital was an affordable option for many uninsured low and middle-income families.

Its fees were substantially lower than at other hospitals, even public hospitals, which charge at least Dh5,000 in advance for expatriate expectant mothers.

“It was a good affordable option for many,” said Senait Asfaw, who is due to give birth on February 15 and whose first child was born there two years ago.

“It charged lower prices than the public hospital. I really do not know what to do now.”

Mrs Afshaw said: “I have been to several other private hospitals in Sharjah but they are all asking for medical reports and tests.

“The least we require is to have been informed of the closure in advance so we could arrange an alternative.

“The fees are at least Dh6,000 more and I might need to go as an emergency case as I do not have the medical reports. I can afford to pay more but many others cannot.”

Among those who cannot afford to pay more is Mukhtar Ahmad, a father of seven who earns Dh2,500 a month.

“My wife is in her ninth month and we came today as she is feeling some pain in her stomach,” he said.

“I do not know what to do. I have already paid this hospital and I cannot afford to pay more. I have no choice now but to go back home and think of another solution.”

Pregnant women were not the only ones affected. Umm Abed Alrahman, a mother of three, was there yesterday with her eight-year-old daughter, who was suffering from a stomach ache and was vomiting.

“I do not know how to go around in taxis by myself and I live close to the hospital so I brought my daughter here,” she said.

“But now I had to call my husband so he could take off from work and come and look for another hospital for our daughter.”

A local pharmacist said closing a hospital was not like closing a supermarket. “If it closes suddenly patients will suffer,” he said.

“They need their medical reports.”