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The private versus public hospital debate

  1. #1
    KirtiM is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2012

    The private versus public hospital debate

    We stay in Kennedy Town and there are no private hospitals around us. I have lots of time (only 5 weeks in) before I am due but have been advised to register asap. We are still confused on if we should go for a public hospital like Queen Mary's or a private one like Matilda or Canossa.

    This is our first and we have moved into HK only last Oct. So any advice would be appreciated which will help us decide one over the other.

    Thanks so much in advance


  2. #2
    carang's Avatar
    carang is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Sai Kung

    do you have insurance that covers up to $150,000+? if so, then go for private.

    if you don't have that kind of insurance, do you have that kind of money easily accessible? are you willing to spend that kind of money for 3 days in the hospital and the delivery of your baby.

    if you don't have that kind of insurance. if you don't want to spend that kind of money for 3 days. if you don't mind "no frills", then go for public. the entire pregancy using the public system might cost $1000-2000, including your hospital stay.

    Honkyblues likes this.

  3. #3
    charade is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    By Hong Kong standards, Kennedy Town would not be considered far from the private hospitals you mentioned. Some people live in the New Territories and choose to cross the harbour to deliver at Matilda. So where you live, particularly if you are on the island, should not be a big factor in choosing between the private hospitals you mentioned and QMH.

    As Cara mentioned, it comes down to your budget and how much you're willing to spend. Both provide good medical care. In private, there will be more handholding and your accommodation of special requests.

    If your pregnancy is complicated, the public hospitals have the best neonatal medical equipment. That is something to keep in mind only if your pregnancy is complicated.

    If you're planning or have to have a c-section, I feel that private may be a bit better because most of my friends how have c-secs privately had much smaller scars. However, although my scar was big, it healed really well so no complaints. I did have a uterine tear during the c-sec which means I have to have another c-sec if I plan another baby - which I'm not going to so it doesn't matter - and anyway VBAC is not a very popular choice once you've had one c-sec.

    Epidural is another thing to consider. For my first delivery, I didn't get one. Apparently, I should have insisted on it right at the beginning instead of saying I'd like to wait to decide. For my second, I asked the doctor at my antenatal appointment and she advised me to strongly say I want one when I first go to the delivery suite and I should get it (in very rare cases if the anaesthetologist is tied up, you won't get it). In private, if you want one, you'll get one and don't have to do any insisting etc.

    So those are the things I would think about. But basically it comes down to - how much money do you have to pay for those extras.

  4. #4
    nicolejoy's Avatar
    nicolejoy is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    North Point

    Another point to consider - if you are very pro-natural birth, that may tip the balance in favour of a private hospital. While it is possible to have a natural at a public hospital (by natural, I mean no meds, along with dimmed lights, candles, nice music ;) ;) ), a private hospital will most likely be more accommodating with requests like that. The public hospital is more impersonal. You cannot CHOOSE a c-section in the public hospital either. You must deliver private, unless medically impossible.

    And yet another points: if you do have medical complications, a public hospital may be the wiser choice - particularly if your child needs NICU or something like that. While most pregnancies and deliveries are by and large uncomplicated, if there are more serious medical considerations, the baby may be sent to a public hospital after the birth. Many such issues can be determined prenatally and planned for, but there is always the odd unexpected situation as well. I know women who have delivered in the private section of the public hospital because of this.

    All in all, there are many factors to consider. If I had an uncomplicated pregnancy and good insurance, I would choose private (and specifically Matilda). I would not consider any other private hospital due to their poor breastfeeding policies (many of them do not allow rooming-in with baby unless in a private room). If I had complications, I'd go to QMH.

  5. #5
    matemate is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Hong Kong

    btw if you consider sanatorium, you have to book NOW

    my view is: pick your private hospital, pick the doctor and then make a booking. only once you are confirmed and pay the downpayment is the real decision time.

  6. #6
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009

    I have to say that distance in Hong Kong should not be the main deciding factor of where you give birth. For example I live very far out in the New Territories West (Tuen Mun Valley) and I gave birth on Hong Kong Island East. But, I did not give birth in a private hospital. Gave birth in a public hospital.

    I do have to add that not all private hospitals are the same. I was booked to give birth in a private hospital and they weren't the "handholding" type either. Neither was the doctor. Also, I had planned for an spontaneous, unaugmented (no syntocin to start labor etc.), unmedicated (no epidurals, no pain meds) birth with my husband as my coach. As I'd had the same type of birth experience with my first child in the States. The private hospital I was booked in was not at all okay with this. They basically told me, "While we understand why you'd like this most women here go for a full epidural and giving birth in the lithotomy position (flat on your back--counterproductive to labor) because that's what is convenient for the doctors and the doctors run the show here."

    So, while at Matilda you may have more choice, not all private hospitals will be okay with that. Also, at a few of the private hospitals you're not allowed to room-in with your baby. They kind of keep your baby "prisoner" in the nursery for fear of "contamination" and also for safety reasons as many people are wandering in and out of the wards and they don't have a good security system. Also, I think that in the private system it depends so much on the doctor you have.

    And not all public hospitals are the same either. It depends a lot on the "mood" of the hospital. If the hospital is crowded and the staff is overworked (i.e. Tuen Mun Public Hospital) you can almost be sure to expect to run into problems and probably have your wishes overlooked and/or ignored. If it's in a more laid-back hospital (Pamela Youde Nethersole) the staff seem to be better. It also depends on the day of the week and the staff on duty. It's like the weather in the public hospital--it changes from day-to-day depending on who is on shift. As far as medical equipment and know-how I'd say most hospitals in the public system are similar--however, if staff aren't really listening to patient's needs or don't have the time/energy to keep a close eye on things, there can be less-than-favorable outcomes.

    If money's not an issue and you can, get a doctor who delivers at Matilda and go there. If money is an issue go with Queen Mary Hospital. I think it's prudent to book in the public hospital even if you plan to give birth in a private one. You never know. I found out I would not be giving birth in the private hospital when I was 38 weeks pregnant.

    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

  7. #7
    banane76 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Hong Kong

    I was advised by Hulda from Annerley that if you wanted a natural birth, you're actually more likely to get a natural at a public hospital. Private doctors have other things they would prefer to be doing than wait around for you to labour naturally...they might push you towards a c-section, which can be for thought. I had both of my babies naturally at QMH.

  8. #8
    LOJITT is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    The Peak

    Would add that if you decide to go private, your choice of Obs is as important as your choice of hospital in terms of getting the birth you want. If you want an elective c-section, no problem- with one or two exceptions, the private Obs will be happy to oblige, no questions asked. If you definitely want a vaginal delivery, you need to discuss their stats with them, because some of the Obs have very low vaginal delivery rates which seem to contradict their alleged preference for VBs, whilst others are pretty good (given that they're always going to have reasonably high elective c-section rates here which skew their stats).

    You need to select your Obs and then they handle your booking, but you need to do that now as they make booking requests as soon as they see a heartbeat on the scan.

    The "famous names" (ladies first) are: Lucy Lord, Grace Cheung, Patrick Chan, Arabinda Ghosh, Philip Ho, Alex Doo.

    I had my son at Matilda 2 yrs ago. Had a straightforward vaginal delivery with epidural, which I got pretty quickly. Had a very positive experience, and am delivering my second child there in a few weeks with the same Obs.

    However, also have friends who had very good experiences at QMH at a fraction of the price

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