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Few takers for newborn insurance scheme

By R.Sujatha

CHENNAI, JAN. 17 . The poor lack the money to bring their newborns for post-maternity reviews and regular health check-ups, say doctors.

The indigent, who depend upon the Government hospitals, sometimes do not even have the resources to get to the hospitals.

Whatever savings they have are spent during birth of the child. The expenses highlight the need for a more comprehensive health insurance that covers not only birth but also pregnancy related complications, doctors and insurance officials say.

Though small towns boast of ultrasound scans that can detect birth defects during pregnancy, poor awareness among gynaecologists, sonologists and paramedical staff could result in death of newborns. Often, heart anomalies may show up two weeks after birth; but a good sonologist can detect them during pregnancy, enabling a gynaecologist to refer the newborn for specialised treatment.

At maternity hospitals such as the Women and Children's Hospital in Egmore, about 400 of the 20,000 newborns every year exhibit birth anomalies, says A. Sundaravalli, former head of the city-based Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Such children are referred to the Institute of Child Health (ICH). But a senior paediatrician says though the treatment is free, there is no monitoring of children who also do not return for review.

"Newborns must be treated as individuals. Some Government hospitals have a kind of system. In district level hospitals there are some facilities," says S. Jayam, a perinatologist and former ICH head. "Separate beds for newborns can ensure better care." But often parents cannot afford such expenses because they are unprepared for it.

2 policies

At present, government insurance companies have two policies for unborn children. The United India Insurance has the Cradle Care Policy and the New India Assurance has the Birthright Policy (earlier known as the unborn children's welfare policy).

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