Wrong hospital? Media getting paranoid in British royal baby wait

LONDON (AFP) - After more than two weeks camped outside St Mary's Hospital in London, the media waiting for Prince William's wife Catherine to give birth are having terrible thoughts - what if they are in the wrong place?

Camera crews, journalists and photographers have been staking out St Mary's since the beginning of the month after royal officials revealed Catherine would have her baby there.

But as the days tick by with not so much as a royal corgi dog making an appearance, paranoia is setting in.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday reported that the Duchess of Cambridge may instead give birth at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, near her parents' home west of London.

The 31-year-old has been dividing her time in the past four or five weeks between her London base at Kensington Palace and the Middleton's Bucklebury home, royal sources told AFP.

And the Telegraph noted that if she goes into labour while staying with her parents, the half-hour drive to the Royal Berkshire in Reading may be preferable to risking the 80km trip through the traffic to central London.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace told AFP: "There are contingency plans for wherever the Duchess might be in the country, and that has always been the case."

The Royal Berkshire Hospital may be closer but as a purely National Health Service (NHS) facility, it does not offer the same luxuries as St Mary's.

Although St Mary's is also run by the state-funded NHS, Catherine is booked into the private Lindo Wing, which offers plush suites and top quality cuisine.

No such facility exists at the Royal Berkshire, where - if she gives birth there - Catherine might end up staying on a post-labour ward with a number of other new mums.

The palace refused to confirm where the Duchess has spent the past week since her reported due date on July 13, or to say whether Prince William was with her.

But the spokesman confirmed the Prince has not been at work in north-west Wales, where he is a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, since the weekend.

"He's not on shift," he said.

Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday revealed her impatience to meet her third great-grandchild, joking that she hoped it would arrive before she goes on holiday in Scotland next week.

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