SHANGHAI, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Luxury consumption does not always mean quality service, or even safety.
High-end maternity care centers that boast five-star hotel amenities and first-class service are a growing fad among new mothers from well-off families.
However, the industry has long been criticized for a lack of professionalism and supervision. The problem has been highlighted by a recent scandal involving several infants who became infected with a dangerous virus while being cared for in a Shanghai maternity center.
On Monday, a woman using the screenname "time for space" wrote on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that her infant had become critically ill after being infected by a rotavirus at the Baoruijia Maternity Care Center, alleging that another four infants were also infected.
The woman said she entered the center on Dec. 12 last year and was charged 52,000 yuan (8,359 U.S. dollars) for the care she and her child received there. The baby started showing symptoms of illness, including vomiting, diarrhea and fever, on Jan. 5 and was taken to the hospital the next day.
However, the head of the center refused the parents' request for compensation, insisting that the child's illness had nothing to do with the center, the woman said.
The health bureau of Shanghai's Jingan district is investigating the incident.
The alleged case of infection, as well as other complaints aired online, have led some to worry about where to seek out quality maternity care.
A Shanghai woman surnamed Liu has been busy searching for her ideal maternity care center, as she is now three months pregnant.
Liu found that the centers often charge fees as high as 30,000 to 100,000 yuan, even though the condition of the centers is sometimes questionable.
"Some hotels have turned into maternity care centers overnight. There are also rumors that some children have contracted pinkeye in the centers, while other rumors have described rats in some of the centers' rooms," Liu said.
An official from the Jingan district health bureau said the source of the infection at the Baoruijia center has not been identified, admitting that the industry has been plagued by a lack of regulation and supervision regarding sanitary conditions.
Wang Liangfeng, general manager of the Youaibei maternity care center, said postpartum women and newborns are especially susceptible to infections, adding that the centers should use strict sterilization and isolation measures to ensure the safety of consumers.
Xiao Dina, deputy head of a Shanghai health industry association, said a uniform access system for maternity care has yet to be created, adding that rules concerning the centers' facilities, sanitation and nurses are also nonexistent.
Professional standards for the industry are urgently needed in order to protect consumers' interests, Xiao said.
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