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Public vs Private maternity hospitals - Written by an Australian Midwife

public vs private maternity hospitals
{pictured in shari black dress}

 The fact that you’ve clicked this blog and have attempted to start reading means you haven’t yet jumped into the hospital, grabbed the doctor or booked your doula based on what your friends and family have convinced you absolutely need.
Good on you!
As a Midwife I definitely see cultural and religious backgrounds have certain preferences.
My biggest piece of advice is to remember that maternity care is very different to any other time you have been in hospital. The pros and cons differ when talking about any other medical condition.
The other factor to consider is pregnancy and birth is a normal and natural process. No matter what your background is - you are not sick. You are having a baby.
Some women are fortunate enough to choose whether they go public or private and others don’t have a choice in the matter. As an Australian Midwife who works in the public system I am definitely bias, but there is a reason for this.
With this in mind I will start with the cons of going to a private hospital. I promise I will end on a high note.
In the private system you are in a private hospital with your private doctor. You will see your doctor for all your appointments during pregnancy. When you are in labour, your doctor will only be called in when you are literally giving birth to your baby. Behind the scenes the Midwives may contact your doctor if they are unsure of anything or feel there needs to be medical input into your labour as something has occurred that is beyond the boundaries of normal.
When you are on the postnatal ward after you’ve had your baby you are cared for by Midwifery staff. You may not see your doctor, perhaps once a day to check in. Most of the time Obstetricians like to follow up with you 6 weeks after your baby is born.
It is important to be aware that a private hospital does not have the same capacity in caring for complex situations as a public hospital does. This is because they may not have the same equipment and specialists you will find in a public hospital. For example, if your baby needs to be born prior to 34 weeks you will be transferred to a public hospital. If your doctor only works in that private hospital then they will not continue to care for you. A doctor working in the public system will take over your care - for free. Unless you manage to choose a new private Obstetrician. This normally does not happen as you get transferred quickly if something is wrong.
The best advice I can give you is if you are set on having a private Obstetrician then find one who works in a public hospital. They then have access to all the equipment and specialists.
Most of the time women choose to have a private Obstetrician in case ‘something goes wrong’. In a private hospital in certain situations they cannot assist you.
Another thing to be mindful of is the staff who work in private hospitals. The pay for Midwives is slightly less in a private hospital than public. Yes you read that right. Therefore the Midwives tend to be from overseas more often than not.
Women who have had fantastic experiences in the private system tend to feel their care was not as good after they had their baby. This most certainly comes back to staff satisfaction working in these hospitals.
Now after all this negativity lets shed some light on private hospitals.
Private hospitals are beautiful. Your room is beautiful and spacious. The hallways are gorgeous. Your guests have a pleasant experience being there and so do you. Your meals are more gourmet than what you get in the public system and sometimes you even get to lift those fancy silver lids off your food as you put on a French accent as say ‘your dinner is served’.
Many private maternity wards also have a nursery for your well baby to be looked after at night while you sleep.
Unfortunately public hospitals are a hit or miss when it comes to aesthetics. You may be lucky enough to live close to a hospital that is shiny and new. In my experience the rooms tend to be painted a lovely baby blue vomit colour that has not be updated in about 20 years. This comes with the same amount of time worth of blu-tack stuck over the walls. Your guests will be greeted with a kitchenette if they are lucky. Some of which the hinges are still attached to the kitchen cupboard doors where they will find their choice of black tea bags and instant coffee with a sometimes clean styrofoam cup.
In short, public hospitals can look shocking, poor and sad. The funding for these hospitals are more directed in appropriate staffing, medical training, equipment and care support services. There is also a huge amount of support services aimed at mental health. This is the biggest thing women need during pregnancy and birth. You have access to any health professional and medical procedure in a public hospital. Unfortunately you do not have a choice who is your health professional. In the private system you can choose your doctor. In the public system you will get any health professional or specialist you need for free. This may result in you receiving care from a junior doctor. This doctor will have a more senior colleague they will report to or be watched over by.
Having said this, you will only be looked after by a doctor if needed. If your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period all fall within the boundaries of normal then you are cared for by Midwives.  A Midwife’s approach is always holistic. They are trained to look at your social situation, your childhood, medical history and mental health history to provide you with the best care.
In Summary
 Private Maternity Hospitals
- Choice and control over which doctor looks after you

- Expensive

- The hospital and rooms are nicer

- Unable to do all medical procedures

- Sometimes have a nursery to look after your baby to allow you to sleep

- Do not have access to a neonatal intensive care unit

 Public Maternity Hospitals 

- Everything is free with medicare

- Not physically appealing

- Multiple options for care

- Little to no control over your health professional

- Mental health is always taken into account

- Your doctor may be junior

Find out the difference between a Midwife, Nurse, Doula and Obstetrician here 

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