Today, we attended a house-warming party at Deer Park. It was a gathering of babies, mothers and fathers and an occasion to share childminding experience. The host’s son and our son were born one day apart at Werribee Mercy Hospital. Another family which moved from Dandenong to Hoppers Crossing very near the due date, was refused admission into Werribee Mercy Hospital as it was fully booked. They went to Sunshine Hospital but were not happy with the environment there so they returned to Werribee Mercy Hospital. The Hospital relented on the admission only after they threatened to sue it.

When my wife was first pregnant, our GP told us Werribee Mercy Hospital, Sunshine Hospital and Royal Women Hospital are the three hospitals most convenient for us. Werribee Mercy Hospital and Sunshine Hospital are about 20-25 minutes drive from Altona while Royal Women Hospital is slightly further away, but not by much. While searching online for opinions on maternity hospitals, I discovered several maternity and baby forums. Most forum members have good words for Werribee Mercy Hospital while Sunshine Hospital and Royal Women Hospital receive mixed reviews. We visited Werribee Mercy Hospital for an orientation and we feel very comfortable with its homely environment. In addition, we guess if the labour occurs during peak hours, getting to Werribee Mercy Hospital will be easier as this is against city-bound traffic. Hence, we decided on Werribee Mercy Hospital.

My wife is admitted as a public patient but she needs to find a private obstetrician first. From online forums, we found out that Werribee Mercy Hospital is serviced by about 5-6 obstetricians. Dr. Sahhar has a clinic at Altona and has good reviews but his fees seem to be higher than those charged by other obstetricians. We decided on Dr. John How, whose clinic is at Spotswood, which is not far away from Altona. My wife is not very proficient in English so I am hoping we can find a Mandarin-speaking obstetrician. Dr. How is indeed a Chinese, previously from Singapore but he can only speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. We are very happy with his services and feel that he is very experienced and skilful. He made a decisive judgement in taking out the baby by suction when my wife was having difficulty delivering and the baby’s heartbeats were weakening.

For my wife’s second pregnancy, we decided to go back to Werribee Mercy Hospital because we have very good experience there and we do not wish to risk going to another unknown hospital. However, we did not go back to Dr. John How as we feel that his fees are somewhat on the high side. Dr. Calandra is the only obstetrician that bulk bills patients but my wife will need to wait three months to see him. I have also come across some negative reviews of him, including the comment that you get what you have paid for.

We decided to consult Dr. Stephen Ong, whose clinic is at West Footscray. My wife had to wait two months to see him but she managed to get our local GP to share care with him during this period. Like Dr. How, Dr. Ong can only speak Cantonese. While Dr. How can hardly speak any Mandarin, Dr. Ong can manage a few sentences. The first appointment turned out to be quite amusing. Dr. Ong was checking my wife’s medical history. He asked my wife in Mandarin whether she smokes and my wife replied “No”. Then he asked my wife whether she drinks water. My wife was taken aback. She loves drinking water so she is perplexed why he is asking this question. I then told my wife that Dr. Ong has meant to ask whether she consumes alcohol. He had wrongly substituted the Chinese word for alcohol with water.

During both my wife’s labour in Werribee Mercy Hospital, she was fortunate to give birth in a large birthing suite on a double bed and to continue staying in the same room for 3 days. There is enough space on the bed for me to sleep over at nights. My wife has a choice of the meals, which are delicious. Except for the obstetrician’s fees, we are not required to pay any hospital expenses. My wife learnt from an Altona friend who gave birth at the Royal Women Hospital that she had to go hungry after the birth as she had missed the meal time. At Werribee Mercy Hospital, the fridge is always stacked with extra meals and sandwiches, in case the patients need them outside meal hours. My wife has no problem requesting for extra food. The midwives are also very friendly and give good advice on taking care of newborn babies. When my wife was having problems breastfeeding our first child, she went back to Werribee Mercy Hospital for a breastfeeding day session (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.), during which she was taught how to breastfeed correctly. When my wife was having no sleep due to our second child crying incessantly throughout the night, the nurse volunteered to take the baby out of the room and to pacify him so that my wife can have a good sleep. I would say that Victoria has a very good support system as a midwife from the Hospital visited us at home soon to check that both mother and baby have no problem. This was followed by another home visit from the local council’s maternity service.

I learnt from some friends who had used health insurance that they actually ended up paying more than they would if they choose to go through the public system and not receiving any different superior service compared to public patients.

Useful Forums on Pregnancy, Childbirth and Babies: