I am often asked: Which hospital should I book to have my baby?

I will start answering this question by writing about my personal experiences as an obstetrician in private practice.

When I started in private practice, I had appointments at the San Hospital (Sydney Adventist Hospital), Baulkham Hills Private Hospital (now relocated to Bella Vista and called Norwest Private Hospital), Hornsby Hospital and Blacktown Hospital.

I cancelled my Blacktown Hospital very soon after starting my practice. Considering the increasing disasters being reported in Blacktown Hospital maternity department and the inadequate quality of care many maternity patients receive at Blacktown Hospital, I am incredibly pleased I do not have an appointment there. I quit Hornsby Hospital sometime later. Again, this was because of concerns I had about the inadequate quality of care many public patients received.

Currently, because of increasingly financial pressures on households there are more pregnant women opting out of private and into public care. I suspect for many who have experienced private pregnancy care in the past, this is a temporary financially driven decision. Many who have never experienced private pregnancy care I suspect they assume the quality of public pregnancy care and hospital facilities will be the same as private pregnancy care and private hospital maternity facilities. This is not the case. When they realise this, it is probable many will go private when their finances improve. I have had many women switch from public to me for private care during their pregnancy, even though they are not insured, as they we not coping with the poor quality of care they were receiving as public patients.

I quit Baulkham Hills Private Hospital when we moved to Wahroonga to live. As well, as my rooms were in Hornsby, and I was getting more bookings for the San Hospital.

Years later a colleague asked me to cover him while he was on holidays. He confined women at both the San and Baulkham Hills Private Hospitals. That meant I needed to be reappointed to Baulkham Hills Private Hospital.

With the population growth in northwest Sydney, I was getting more patients from that area of Sydney, many of whom wanted to be confined at Baulkham Hills Private Hospital. I started to accommodate their requests and started admitting my own patients to Baulkham Hills Private Hospital. Then Baulkham Hills Private Hospital relocated to Bella Vista. A new hospital was built and was called Norwest Private Hospital. It was a very popular decision. I decided to sell my office in Hornsby and buy my current office on Norwest. As well, we had relocated to Hills District to live. My maternity booking numbers at Norwest Private Hospital grew dramatically.

The San then built a new maternity department in the top two floors or the new Clark Tower. This provided better quality rooms and overall better facilities.

Then the San next introduced with HCF the Swaddle programme. That meant than patients with HCF would not be out of pocket for hospital (except fund excess, if any), doctors, scans, and pathology (as long as there were no extras required). It was very appealing. A woman would save about $7000 in having a baby privately. Leon Clark (who Clark Tower is named after) was the previous CEO of the San Hospital and a personal friend once said to me: “someone has to have a very good reason to drive past their local maternity hospital”. Saving $7,000 was a particularly good reason. Women would travel considerable distances to have their babies at the San for the financial savings.

The Swaddle programme proved not to be financially viable for HCF and so has ended. There is no longer a good reason for a woman to drive past their local maternity hospital. Some who live outside the San Hospital area will go back to the San after Swaddle as they had an enjoyable experience there, but for others they will book next pregnancy at their local maternity hospital. For most women living in northwest Sydney that would be Norwest Private Hospital. I am seeing that in my patient bookings. With my office being in Norwest, now there are now more booking at Norwest Private than the San.

Both hospitals provide very good facilities and good quality care, so it is a personal preference and geographical location in deciding where to go to have your baby. You can check out both maternity departments online. As well you can visit both and have a look around.

The maternity tour links are:

I attend both hospitals. There are good paediatricians (sometimes the same) at both and good anaesthetists (mostly not the same) at both.

In both hospitals you can be confined from 33 weeks gestation. If you need to be confined before 33 weeks, you will be transferred to a public hospital where they have a suitable neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This is uncommon and is not a reasonable reason to book at public hospital. Indeed, I know of a woman who booked at a public hospital and needed to be delivered before 33 weeks. That public hospital’s (where she booked) NICU was over full and so she was transferred to another public hospital for confinement.

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