Review of my stay at Postnatal Maternity Ward in Canberra Hospital

Feathergirl 7 March 2009 48

Skipping past the labour (I had lots of nitro gas, that stuff is awesome).

I stayed 3 nights in the postnatal ward after giving birth at The Canberra Hospital. The babies sleep next to you in a crib for the entire visit (yes, no breaks from them unless you have a nice mum or partner to take them for a while). As a public patient you share a room unless you have a C-Section, multiple birth or complications and then the patient gets a single. I thought you only shared if all the other rooms were full. I shared a room, but could see other rooms were empty. Maybe they didn’t have the staff for them? The rooms are small with only a few guest chairs per patient, so try to only have two or three visitors at a time.

The lady next to me had the loudest ring tones on her phone and they really started to grate after a while – and wake the baby at night time so if you are going in, please put your phone on silent/vibrate or at least turn it down. She was okay though, we both kept our visitor numbers down and she was a second time mum so slept well and left hospital soon after delivery.

The rooms are not pretty at all and the decor is from the 80s, but they are well cleaned. A cleaner comes in every day, as well as people who empty the garbage and the dirty linen bins. The tea lady comes around two or three times and then there’s breakfast, lunch and dinner delivered. The doctor also does her rounds once a day, there’s a lady who offers to take baby photos (very expensive), the nurse who checks the babies hearing, midwives checking on patients and more. So there is usually someone popping in the room every half hour. The hospital is not a place for modesty – it must be a testing ground for building your confidence for breast feeding in public.

If you need a clean sheet, towel, baby gown or any linen it’s quickest, and it’s expected, you go get items yourself. The linen press is in the central area. There are ice-packs, spare nappies and a tea room in the central area too. Vases for any flowers you may get are down the hall and a midwife can show you where the different locations of everything are.

The food is edible. It’s a continental breakfast which was nice, toast is cold, but the tea is hot. The lunches and dinners are worse than aeroplane food, think instant mash and a ‘garden salad’ of one piece of iceburg, two wedges of tomato and three slices of cucumber. Dessert is whipped cream with a slight brown flavour mixed through it (butterscotch mousse apparently). I asked my partner to bring in my own snacks to keep me nourished. I can’t complain too much about the food as I did scoff it all down – I found birth made me hungrier than I expected to be.

The midwives are called via a buzzer next to your bed. If you really need them, in an emergency situation for example, buzz your buzzer a lot as, if you give them just one buzz, it takes about 15 minutes to get one, but they are mostly nice and bring Panadol, answer stupid questions, check your stitches etc. One thing is they do ask you to do is buzz them when you feed the baby and then they come and advise you on your technique. Each one tells you something slightly different; I suggest studying the breast feeding films on the little TV above your bed instead. The films are free (you have to pay for regular TV). Check out the Swedish breast feeding film especially, it’s very funny viewing and it’ll cheer you up after another sleepless night of worrying over bubs.

Also the midwives suggest putting the baby in bed with you to sleep. What the hell? I thought with SIDS that was bad? Then they suggest to me to take baby in bed with me to ssttle her? Ah well, you don’t sleep if the baby is in bed with you or in the crib anyway if you’re a first time mum.

Overall the experience was not a bad one for me. It’s a tiring place at a tiring time in life. The doctors are rare as hens teeth, but the midwives are plentyful. You are expected to look after yourself a lot of the time, which surprised me, but the whole lot is free as a public patient so I am grateful we have this service in Australia.

It would be interesting to read a review from a mum who went through delivery in Canberra as a private patient too if anyone out there has had the experience.

PS. Parking is horrible outside maternity wards (building 11) at TCH. Have a parking ‘plan of attack’ organised before your labour.

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48 Responses to Review of my stay at Postnatal Maternity Ward in Canberra Hospital
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gun street girl gun street girl 5:22 pm 07 Mar 09

Igglepiggle said :

I keep trying to work out who you are Gun street girl- you clearly work in the same place as I do…

It’s a big place, full of disgruntled punters. I daresay that makes me fairly generic!!

Granny Granny 5:08 pm 07 Mar 09

I love the name you’ve chose for your little girl, Feathergirl. It’s one of my favourites!

Glad everything is going so well for you and bub.

: )

I’m shocked to hear about your mum’s experience in the US. I would think they would end up with an alarming number of Caesarian sections that way.

Royal Canberra was wonderful.

I’ve had three kids with drugs and three without. Never had an epidural though. Gas and pethidine were the drugs commonly used. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that they were routinely offered back then whereas you have to ask for them now. That’s a lot better, I think.

At Royal Canberra the wards slept four, but they were quite spacious. It was nice to chat with the other mums through the day as we cared for our babies, which were beside us in their little cribs.

The food was a lot better than the hospital food I’ve had since. After my first baby they gave me a whopping great plate of corned beef and white sauce and I don’t think I ever enjoyed a meal so much. The food was good enough that I enjoyed making the menu choices and looked forward to them arriving. That had worn a little thin by the end though.

We stayed in for a lot longer – 5-7 days which gave you plenty of chance to focus on your baby, establish breastfeeding and recuperate from the birth. Also if jaundice developed you were right there on the spot for them to go under the ultraviolet lamps.

At night they babysat them for us in the nursery until they needed a feed, then a nurse would tiptoe in with a torch and gently wake the mother who went in to the nursery which was warm and brightly lit and friendly. You’d exchange smiles and joke around with the staff while you saw to the baby, and they were right there on the spot to help you out with the feeding.

Afterwards you could have milo and bickies and a bit of a chat with other mums or staff and crawl back into your nice cosy bed for another three to four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

In the morning the curtains were drawn back and the babies wheeled in while you sat up and ate breakfast in bed.

Our beds were made for us daily, although we were free to help ourselves to anything we needed from the supplies at any time.

They had physio classes every morning that you were encouraged to attend, although it wasn’t compulsory, but the physios were able to help you feel the gap in the abdominal wall and show you how to do the exercises correctly.

There was one night you got to choose where the staff minded your baby while you went out to dinner with your partner, which was really special. With the electronic pump onsite it was easy to express enough milk for the baby while you were out.

They also had fantastic salt baths you could take in the shower with you to help heal and soothe any sore, bruised or stitched bits down below and heat lamps were available as well.

I’ve tried a few systems and that was my favourite, mainly because it was so restful and friendly and supportive. I know that it’s not ideal for every woman, but I loved it.

Igglepiggle Igglepiggle 5:04 pm 07 Mar 09

I keep trying to work out who you are Gun street girl- you clearly work in the same place as I do…

Igglepiggle Igglepiggle 5:01 pm 07 Mar 09

“The doctors are rare as hens teeth”

I’m glad you found this feathergirl, as it means you didn’t have any/many complications and didn’t need them! Congratulations, and welcome to Tabitha.

gun street girl gun street girl 4:59 pm 07 Mar 09

Feathergirl said :

I watch too many episodes of Scrubs I guess.

…Wouldn’t that lead you to expect less, not more? 😉 Congrats on your new bubby.

Feathergirl Feathergirl 4:34 pm 07 Mar 09

Thanks for the comments, congratulations and stories, I wondered what the whole birth experience would be like in different hospitals.

I-filed – I had a girl we’ve named Tabitha, she was 3035g at birth and everything about her is healthy and tip-top. She’s actually 5 weeks now, but I haven’t had much time to get online to type up the review… other mums told me how busy/exhausted I’d be after a baby, but I didn’t believe them. How naieve I was. I laugh at old me and my ‘I’ll get SO much done when I’m at home with the baby’ attitude.

Slightly off topic, but Granny’s comment on giving birth in the 80s reminded me of this – my mum had my little sister in the USA in the early 80s it she HAD to have a epidural, they made every mum have one and you had no choice. Mum was known as the ‘lady who had a natural birth for her first child’ (I was born in AUS) and people were really shocked she had had no drugs at all. They also didn’t let you take the baby home till you paid the bill and back then it was a couple of thousand dollars for a couple of nights stay. I’d hate to think of the cost now.

Your reviews of your stays in Calvery is a bit shocking Danman & Sepi – as someone who had never been to hospital before I thought that I’d be, well, yeah, have help with washing, have my sheets changed, be shown how to look after the baby more etc but you do get left alone a lot and have to rely on family for any ‘caring’ care. I watch too many episodes of Scrubs I guess.

Granny Granny 4:11 pm 07 Mar 09

I could tell you what we used to get in Canberra, but you’d all hate me.

sepi sepi 4:04 pm 07 Mar 09

Birth Centre – tried to book in about about 3 weeks pregnant – already booked up.

Calvary Public – hideous experience from start to finish.

Sent home while in labour.
Shared room of 4 people – at least one will be an out and out nutter.
TV is free, but with four tvs arranged back to back, hanging from the centre of the room, all going in one small room you can’t actually hear it.
No contact with staff for about the first 12 hours after birth.
Baby seriously ill – told not to worry.
After 24 hours, baby has still not fed and stops breathing.
Staff finally whisk baby away to intensive care.
Basically ignored on the maternity ward for the next week, as baby is the patient and baby is elsewhere.

John James Private – much better.

Put in a small room and ignored while in labour.
Own private room with tiny tv (like 15cm).
Single bed – manually adjustable.
Partner can stay on matt on the floor.
Paediatrician visits each baby every morning for 5 minutes.
Nurses visit each room regularly.
Own bathroom, no fridge or kettle.
Chair for breastfeeding.

GnT GnT 3:00 pm 07 Mar 09

I’ve had babies through both the public and private system, all at Calvary. Private is nicer, but you pay for it. The private rooms are like hotel rooms, including bar fridge, toaster, kettle and little bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Great for entertaining visitors and getting used to breastfeeding. Also, your husband can stay which is lovely and makes night feeds so much easier if you’re bedridden for some reason (it’s hard to manage if your baby’s crying, you can’t get out of bed and it take 20 minutes for the midwives to respond to the buzzer).

I definitely think the continuity of care offered by the Birth Centre is something Calvary could and should provide.

Danman Danman 1:51 pm 07 Mar 09

On the subject of hospitals, I just got discharged from Calvary 2 weeks ago as a public patient. I had 5 ear nose and throat complications cleared up.

Normally each operation is day surgery, but the fact that I aspirated blood (read inhaled blood) whilst unconscious and bled a lot, had essentially 5 day surgeries at once, I had to stay 2 nights.

My first night was on the ICU because of the blood aspiration – they were pretty knowledgeable, knew all my history and what needed to be don, what diabetic drugs had to be administered as well as pain relief.

My pre op anastesia was 20mg endone (4 tablets of 5mg oxycodone, an opiate derivative) and 3x 500mg panadene forte, then the usual in theatre anastaesia.

As a result, one eye was looking up and the other down for 16 to 20 hours post op – needing a wardsman and my wife to walk me the 15 or so meters to the toilet.

Met 2 coppers while in ICU, escorting a nice fellow I never met but saw past my room a few times.

Hospitals are places where you leave your dignity at the door.

My wife had to shower me, and the nurse came in a few times and saw everything, but at such a stage I didnt really care I was that stoned.

When I went up to the surgical ward, once I was no longer needing ICU, that is where the dramas started.

Each nurse that came on shift I or Mrs Danman had to explain what surgeries I had done, what anti diabetic drugs I am on and my pain relief schedule. Each shift. Nurses aremeant to do hand over, essentially the outgoing shift nurse tells the incoming their patient load, and what each patient needs in regards to care. This happened few times.

On the surgical ward I was sharing a roomwith an old fella who had a septoplasty.

He was catheterised and had a cannula in but persisted in trying to get out of bed because “This isn’t right” and “we’re not meant to be here” and getting very anxious. This was a result of post op anastesia wearing off. His paranoia escalated when he saw my novelty Las Vegas county jail shirt I was wearing.

Anyway, I pretty much spent my whole 2ndnight listening to this guy panicking and kept having to buzz for a nurse/running out to the nurses station to find someone to calm him down. This ended up in him getting right out of bed and across the room, pulling out his catheter and cannula in the process, all the while, I was running to the nurses station again.

That and a lady in another room who kept screaming all night randomly saw that I was very much on edge and felt more like a psyche ward than a surgical ward.

In all it was a public hospital so what did I expect. They were competent, but there is room for improvement. I cant stress enough though that nurses are underpaid for a lot of Sh_it that they have to deal with and I sympathise with them.

I will end it with this… There is no lonelier place than lying in a hospital bed at 0530, valentines day, watching the first rosey blush in the oncoming morning sky over the bush in Bruce, listening to a manic lady scream randomly and a guy theorising about conspiracies while you know that your other half is in bed waiting for you just as lonely.

Granny Granny 1:09 pm 07 Mar 09

Well, I’ve had two births at Royal Canberra, two at Calvary, a homebirth and the last one was born in the maternity suite at TCH. I was also present for the birth of two of my grandsons – one in the delivery suite at TCH and one in the birthing centre there.

There are pros and cons with all of them, but by far the most overwhelmingly positive experiences were with the system they had at Royal Canberra in the 80s. To me it was the perfect balance and made the whole experience so much more special.

The environment really does make a difference to the experience in my opinion.

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 12:13 pm 07 Mar 09

Congrat’s Feathergirl!

Wife and I had our Son and Daughter at John James 6.5 and 5 years ago respectively. Can’t speak highly enough about the place.

And Whatsup @ post #2 +1.

A work colleague has just posted in to Australia from the US an is seeking advice on this stuff. I’ll point her towards RA.

I-filed I-filed 11:38 am 07 Mar 09

Congratulations Feathergirl! Can you tell us a little about the bub too? 🙂 I can’t report from personal experience but a relative gave birth at JJ recently – in all honesty, I think it’s all about the baby and the relationships with the staff, not the room or services. The parents would have been as happy in a mudbrick ward in a hospital in a developing country. Their room did have nice soft light though, and the surroundings were quiet.

(vg was clearly reminded that he isn’t getting any!)

toriness toriness 11:24 am 07 Mar 09

i don’t know why people bother complaining about hospital food. it’s not a restaurant, it’s a hospital. so long as it doesn’t make you actually sick (ie food poisoning) then you should be more focussed on the medical care you’re getting.

GardeningGirl GardeningGirl 11:08 am 07 Mar 09

Congratulations Feathergirl!
Seems some things never change. I too found the variety of advice from the midwives, especially regarding breastfeeding, frustrating.

Feebles Feebles 11:07 am 07 Mar 09

We had our son through the Birth Cantre at the Canberra Hospital (under the Canberra Midwifery program) and it was a great experience. Would recommend to anyone – can be hard to get onto the program unless you book on straight away.

A much homier environment – you only share the room with your husband and baby. Fast turnover, as you are encouraged to go home a day after giving birth, but we didn’t have a problem with that. If you’d rather not go home, you transfer to the main ward upstairs.

The midwives are magnificent, and because you’ve seen the same one all the way through your pregnancy (and they’re there at the birth) you have built a solid relationship and understanding. I really think this should be the norm for having babies, not the underpublicised niche program that it is.

ant ant 10:57 am 07 Mar 09

I’m having a good chuckle here at the first comment. Is it puzzlement, I wonder, or exasperation?

As for aeroplane food, I flew back on Premium Economy and the food was pretty darn good, especially the brekkie fritatta thing with a vast pile of bacon next to it. Qantas coffee is still stewed though. I don’t know why hospital food is so dreadful, but it mostly is.

Rabble Rabble 10:56 am 07 Mar 09

Congratulations Feathergirl. Sounds like the Maternity Ward’s facilities helped you get the job done. Sounds pretty standard to me I’ve done public and private (a long time ago and in a different city), the food’s better in private but at the time it cost a fortune on top of the insured costs – there wasn’t that much difference. Enjoy your baby.

Whatsup Whatsup 10:52 am 07 Mar 09

Thanks for the review on a topic no so often covered. A change from the restaurant or cafe critique that we are used to.

Hope you and bub do well. Take care.

vg vg 10:45 am 07 Mar 09


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