Sunday, July 27, 2008

Have your baby in a luxury hotel

A SYDNEY hospital will set up a maternity unit, complete with on-site midwife, in a four-star hotel.

The Prince of Wales Private Hospital, at Randwick, plans to transfer new mothers to the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach by limousine.

Mothers will be able to order meals from the hotel's room service menu, husbands will be encouraged to stay, and the costs will be included in obstetric cover provided by private health funds.

Only women who have uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries will be able to move with their babies into an ocean-view suite, which can cost as much as $400 a night.

Visitors will be welcome, and flowers will be automatically redirected to the hotel room.

Prince of Wales is the first hospital in NSW to offer the service, which is understood to be modelled on the Baby Bliss program Ashford Hospital has at the Adelaide Hilton.

In Melbourne, St Vincent's and the Mater Private Hospital have four dedicated rooms at the Park Hyatt.

A Prince of Wales Private midwife will be at the hotel 24 hours a day to assist mothers and babies,
and an obstetrician and a pediatrician will have to sign off on the hotel transfer.

The king-size beds, beach views, bathrobes and extensive menu will be a far cry from the plastic-covered mattresses and overcooked vegetables in a hospital.

A rising birth rate, the growing number of caesarean sections and the closure of maternity units have put pressure on hospitals.

Although the hotel stays will free up beds, the NSW Midwives Association has questioned whether the move is best for new mothers.

"To me, most women wouldn't want to be going to a hotel if they could be going home and getting appropriate care," association secretary Hannah Dahlen said.

"Hotels seem to be just a reaction to a problem that needs to be more systematically thought out."

Ms Dahlen said it was preferable for women to have continuity of care from the same midwife in the comfort of their own home.

There was no doubt hotel rooms were cheaper to run than hospital rooms, she said.

"When we talk about private hospitals, we're not talking about best practice, we're talking about saving money.

"So you won't find public hospitals doing that, because they don't have the evidence to support that as an effective way."

But Australian College of Midwives president Professor Pat Brodie said anecdotal feedback from interstate was that women enjoyed the luxuries of a hotel while having midwifery care.

"Midwives providing post-natal care in a social setting like a hotel would appreciate the opportunity to provide continuity of care, get to know the woman and offer advice and support," Professor Brodie said.

"Sometimes that's difficult in busy post-natal wards."

Issues such as infection control and access to care in an emergency needed to be addressed, Ms Dahlen said.

Cinta Taylor, 22, who is expecting her first child in six weeks, is booked into Prince of Wales Private but would love the hotel option.

"The view, the privacy, the food, even the size of the TV make it appealing," she said.

"It's easy for people to come and visit, and you don't have to worry about visiting hours and asking people to leave."

Neither the hospital nor the hotel would discuss the deal, which has been in the planning for 14 months and is expected to be signed off within days.


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