The Cradle

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A brand-new hospital has opened its doors in Melbourne. The Cradle is a 5-star private hospital providing 24/7 obstetric, anaesthetic, paediatric and midwifery cover. This hospital has successfully filled a "gap" in our private maternity sector: the majority of private hospitals do not offer 24/7 specialist medical cover; now, The Cradle is able to offer this. Is it beneficial to mothers and babies? The article below discusses the issues.

THERE may not be a doorman or a porter to take your luggage, but everything else about The Cradle in Hawthorn, which claims to be Australia’s first five-star maternity hospital, feels like a luxury hotel.

There are marble foyers and polished floorboards. The private suites have double beds, flat-screen TVs, lavish ensuites — and 24-hour room service.

... women and their partners who stay at The Cradle ... will be offered fine dining and an impressive wine list ...

... The Cradle also claims its 30-bed facility ... will offer better care ... by having a ‘‘rested’’ obstetrician, pediatrician, anaesthetist and theatre staff in-house 24 hours a day.

At Melbourne’s dozen or so other private maternity hospitals, most of these staff are on call after hours.

... The Cradle claims it will be the only private maternity hospital that will have all of those specialists on duty 24 hours a day.

... The Cradle can’t, however, guarantee that a woman’s own obstetrician will deliver her baby — a key reason why women choose to go private. If the birth occurs after hours the baby is likely to be delivered by the rostered obstetrician.

... Clare McGinness ... says there is nothing wrong with obstetrics care in Australia and The Cradle’s claim of providing ‘‘a greater level of care’’ is a ploy to worry women into paying more for unnecessary services.

... ''There is a lot more involved in delivering a high quality of care to women than having these specialists at a hospital 24/7. It's really about having the right people at the right time with the right skills. It's about having competent midwives who can assess a woman and know when to call an obstetrician, who can be here within half an hour … This is the model we've worked with very successfully for 60 years.''

Damian Armour, executive director at Epworth Freemasons Hospital, says The Cradle's claim of a safer environment for mothers and babies ''has the potential to make women feel a bit anxious about their choices'' ...'

Many women who choose a hospital birth in the private system will find it reassuring to know that there are round-the-clock obstetric, midwifery, paediatric and anaesthetic staff available. Hopefully this will be a model of care that can flourish to promote choices for women. An identified weakness of this model is that women who birth their babies after-hours may not have their own obstetrician, and certainly they will not have met the midwife who will attend them. Time will tell if this weakness is overcome by the strength of the hospital's specialist medical cover but whatever the outcome, it's wonderful that some diversity will now exist in the private maternity system.