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POP star Madonna last night gave birth to a baby boy called Rocco Ritchie.

He was born three weeks early by Caesarian section at the Good Samaritan hospital in Los Angeles.

The star's British film director husband Guy Ritchie drove her to the maternity unit about five hours before the birth - and she sneaked in a back door.

Rocco - who has taken his father's second name - is a little brother for Madonna's other child, three-year-old Lourdes.

However, the fact it was a boy came as no surprise to anyone - Madonna revealed the baby's sex in a radio interview in the US on Thursday.

She also used the interview to have a pop at the health service in Britain.

The 41-year-old singer, who now spends most of her time living in this country, was questioned about where she was planning to have her baby.

She replied: "Come on now - have you been to hospitals in England? They're old and Victorian."

The multi-millionairess also claimed she didn't like the thought of giving birth outside the US.

She said: "I don't know, it feels strange to be in hospitals and see doctors in foreign countries.

"It is great in England but, you know, I like efficiency."

The insult didn't go down well with health officials on this side of the Atlantic.

A Whitehall source led the onslaught, saying: "Who is this woman? She's just a health tourist who takes the NHS for granted and then slags it off."

The Department of Health yesterday declined to get involved in the row. A spokesman said simply: "We wish Madonna well and the very best of luck."

But Lib Dem health spokesman Nick Harvey took a swipe at Madonna.

He said: "Britain's maternity ward staff are under enough pressure without having to deal with pampered jet-setters. If she has the money, she is more than welcome to go back to the US and leave more beds free for British mums."

And Kerlene Davis, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "While some of our hospitals need investment, there are still outstanding examples of good British maternity units."

Madonna, who has been dating Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels director Ritchie for more than a year, also gave birth to Lourdes at the Good Samaritan hospital.

Rocco was delivered in the Davajan-Cabal peri-natal Center. An Internet site describes its rooms as "attractive, spacious and private".

Also provided are soothing, warm water-filled "labor tubs".

But as American mum Jennifer Stevens pointed out, Madonna could have had the same treatment cheaper at London's Portland Hospital.

That's where Princess Diana, Posh Spice and Patsy Kensit chose to have their babies and Jennifer, who travelled from LA to give birth there, said: "There's no way you could find anywhere in the world better. If it was good enough for Diana, it's good enough for me."
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Author:Houston, Simon
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 12, 2000
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