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Women travel to Hungary to give birth

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 30 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:284
  1. Carl Kovac
  1. Budapest

    Up to 2200 foreign women, many of them driven across the border by poor medical care and inadequate hospital facilities in their home countries, travelled to Hungary to give birth, according to figures for 1998.

    Ministry of Health data showed that many of the women who crossed the border to give birth were ethnic Hungarians from Subcarpathia. Most of the women–about 1000–were from the Transylvania region of Romania, the next largest groups were from Ukraine and Yugoslavia. Women holding Russian, Slovak, German, Austrian, Polish, Czech, and Croatian citizenship made up the remainder.

    In interviews, women revealed the problems they were trying to avoid by travelling to Hungarian hospitals for delivery. They reported that hospitals in their home towns had no heat during winter and lacked medicine, bandages, syringes, bed linen, and other supplies. A Ukrainian woman told doctors at Nyiregyhaza Hospital in northeast Hungary that the hospital where she had had her first child lacked water and soap. She was able to bathe only when she returned home four days after giving birth. She also reported that after the birth nurses cleaned only her infant's face before wrapping him in a sheet and that the baby had developed a skin infection.

    Not all foreign women who have given birth in Hungary were fleeing such conditions. Some simply found themselves in Hungary when their labour started. Others, particularly from Austria, which provides high quality health care, crossed the border to take advantage of cheaper obstetric and hospital costs. Complete obstetric care at a state hospital in Hungary costs about 40 000 forints (about £113; $180). If women choose a private hospital, they pay about 180 000 forints for delivery and 25 000 forints a day for hospital care.

    Hungary has reciprocal healthcare agreements with Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, and the former Soviet republics. The increase in women travelling to Hungary to give birth has not placed a strain on the country's obstetric facilities because there has been a decline in the birth rate during recent years.

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