In need of a holiday? A visit to the Xiyue Postnatal Hospital in Shanghai would be hard to beat.
Meaning "happiness" or "joyous" in Mandarin, the Xiyue is more like a holiday resort than a place of healing. Combining well-furnished rooms for mothers and children and a swimming pool, a golf course, tennis courts and karaoke bars for visitors, the hospital provides a powerful incentive for extending the recuperative period.
That is the point.
One tenet of traditional Chinese beliefs holds that new mothers should be confined for one month after birth to prevent evil spirits from attaching themselves to the newborn.
But keeping evil out comes at a price. Xiyue's cheapest room is US$5,000 a month while the two-storey luxury suite costs nearly US$1,250 a day, but it does come with separate bedrooms for the new mother, baby and babysitter as well as a kitchen and a karaoke bar.
Even the cheapest room is beyond the reach of most Chinese, carrying a price tag about 14 times the US$370 average monthly salary in Shanghai. Still, half of the rooms were booked ahead of the hospital's inauguration in December. China seems to have no shortage of wealthy to keep the rooms full.
By most estimates there are around 300,000 US-dollar millionaires in China. Charles Merkel, founder of business consultancy and market research firm CBC, estimates that this figure will hit 1 million in 15 years.
According to the latest Forbes rich list, the wealth of China's 400 wealthiest people doubled from 2005 to 2006.
In the near absence of adequate health insurance coverage, China's wealthy are not afraid to stump up and pay for first-rate treatment.
Roberta Lipson, the CEO of NASDAQ-listed Chindex International, which runs a network of United Family Hospitals and Clinics in Beijing and Shanghai, estimates that Chinese make up 40% of her network's patients.
McKinsey & Company, a consultancy, reckons private health expenditures by urban consumers will grow at more than 11% annually over the next two decades along with a growing middle class.
This will create opportunities for health care providers, insurance companies, medical equipment manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
Xiyue and Chindex are paving the way. Not only are they showing other providers China has the demand for private health care, they are also ensuring the next generation of pampered Chinese health care consumers get off to a good start. Silver chopsticks have never tasted so good.
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