Medical aid membership is not a requirement for admission into a private hospital. As long as a patient can afford the high fees, a private hospital will admit them and allow them to be treated within the facility. The same applies for expectant mothers who want to give birth in a private hospital but do not have a medical aid. However, the fees that private hospitals do charge may have to be settled upfront and well in advance of the date of delivery.
Costs Without Medical Aid
Most private hospitals in South Africa offer special cash packages for childbirth. It is mandatory to book a hospital bed in the maternity ward ahead of time. However, private hospitals are aware that the human body does not function like clockwork and a woman may give birth before or after the expected due date. Therefore pregnant women are advised to book a bed around the 24th week of pregnancy at the latest.
At this point, non-medical aid payments will be made aware of the maternity package in the private hospital of their choice. Fees can vary anywhere from R18,000 to R30,000 depending on this hospital in question. These fees usually do not include the fees for the gynaecologist/obstetrician, anaethetist or paediatrician unless otherwise stated.
Hospital Admission For Pregnancy
Maternity fees have to be paid upfront, well before the delivery date and failure to do so may lead to refusal for admit the expectant mother. Remember that a private hospital is only obliged to stabilise a patient who does not have the finances to utilise their services, and then send the patient off to a public hospital for further care. The same applies to pregnant women who cannot afford private hospital care.
It is important to discuss the matter of maternity fees well ahead of time and settle the amount early to avoid refusal for admission. If an expectant mother has not settled the bill and goes into labour, she or the person responsible for her account will have to pay the remainder of the bill then and there either in cash or by credit card.
Unforeseen Costs For Mother And Baby
Childbirth is relatively safe and holds little risk these days, especially in private hospitals. However, there are a number of eventualities that can occur. Should either mother and baby need ongoing care beyond the usual requirements for birth, then the bill increases accordingly. It is therefore important for mothers without medical aid to be prepared to bear these costs.
One of the major costs is when the newborn baby needs to be admitted in neonatal ICU. Here the bill can quickly climb into the tens of thousands for just a few days stay and may even climb into the hundreds of thousands for a prolonged stay. Since newborns are at a very fragile stage in life, particularly when in neonatal ICU, the option for a transfer to a public hospital may not be possible.
Instead the parent(s) will have to bear the costs which can be financially crippling without medical aid. While it is not mandatory to be a medical aid member in order to attend a private hospital, it is often seen as essential by most South Africans who have the means to afford medical aid. The state of the public health facilities often raises concerns about the quality of healthcare.
Always speak to the private hospital about the options and costs for childbirth within their facility. This should be done ahead of time. Waiting till the mother goes into delivery in order to show up at a private hospital and demand admission can be precarious. Mothers may find themselves sent off to a public hospital since they do not have a medical aid nor the cash in hand to pay for the hospital fees upfront.