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Finnish maternity wards target Russian mothers to safeguard future

Two Finnish hospital districts hope to attract expectant Russian mothers to give birth to Finland – and help safeguard the future of local maternity wards.

Äiti pitelee kädestä vastasyntynyttä vauvaa sairaalassa.
Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

Hyksin Ltd, a private hospital run by the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) and the South Karelia social and health care district Eksote plan to open a maternity clinic in St Petersburg in the hope that it might encourage Russian mums-to-be to give birth in Finland.

Hyksin Ltd began to provide maternity services for expectant Russians at its Hyvinkää hospital in 2013. However mothers from St. Petersburg have since said that they would prefer not to commute the long distance for maternity care.

Hyksin Ltd and Eksote are currently negotiating an agreement that – starting next summer – would make it possible for foreign mothers to also have their babies at the South Karelia Central Hospital in Lappeenranta. The distance from St Petersburg to Lappeenranta is just 220 kilometres, so it would halve the journey for mothers-to-be.

Mothers visiting Finland to give birth pay 10,000 euros for the service.

Russian mums saving maternity wards

In a fresh population forecast, Eksote estimated that in the South Karelia district, the number of births will fall to between 500 and 600 a year. On the other hand, government’s proposed social and health care reform package, known as "sote", anticipates 1,000 births annually.

"A decade from now we simply won’t have enough mothers of childbearing age," Eksote chief Pentti Itkonen pointed out.

In 2010 mothers in Lappeenranta gave birth to 1,240 babies, so maternity ward capacity would suffice to accommodate visiting mothers as well, he noted.

"If we delivered one baby a day for a visiting mother, in one year that would be enough to maintain a maternity ward here."

Mothballing the Lappeenranta maternity facility would mean that expectant mothers in the region would have to travel to Kotka or Lahti to give birth.

Competitive childbirth market

The proposed St Petersburg clinic would target private patients planning to have babies in Finland. Currently foreign mothers must be in Finland one month before their due date, so they can attend the maternity clinic.

"They could visit the clinic in St Petersburg and then come to Finland when they are ready to deliver," Itkonen said.

Officials believe the move will boost interest among Russian mothers to give birth in Finland as care service providers compete for a share of the childbirth tourism market.

"Private hospitals and clinics are being built in St Petersburg and we should actively go there if we want to get patients from there," Itkonen noted.

"We could also offer cancer treatment and more patients could fit in our operating theatres," he added.

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