Thursday, May 15, 2008

Test-driving the delivery

OK, so it's probably not possible to really take a practice spin on labor and delivery. But Brad and I did recently take two hospitals' maternity area tours, and I am definitely glad for those "practice laps" around two of our local hospitals. The interesting thing is that the hospitals are both from the same health group (rhymes with "Butter"), but the experience at each was so different.

Of course, in an emergency, any hospital is a good hospital. I have gone to what I now know is not my preferred hospital in the middle of the night, received excellent care there, and been reassured by the friendly, competent nurses that all was well. Emergencies are a separate thing altogether.

But, hopefully, labor will progress in a relatively calm state, and I will be glad of having a choice of which hospital to go to. I am so glad to live within driving distance of the hospital in Davis, with its birth center, because I greatly preferred that one to the one in Sacramento.

The Sacramento hospital--although it's the hospital my current OB works out of, and which contains very knowledgable, pleasant nurses that I've encountered--was also just about the complete opposite of the Davis one. And not in a way that was the right fit for what we were looking for.

I'll give a small example of this: Today was the first over-100-degree day of the year in Sacramento, but not nearly the last. Unfortunately, it was uncomfortably warm at the Sacramento hospital--inside. As in, no air-conditioning warm. Inside the hospital! I asked about the temperature controls for the labor and delivery rooms, and was told enthusiastically that every room had a fan (we're talking a 12" tabletop fan here) and ice chips available. I'm all for natural birth, but this was pushing it.

I realize that temperature isn't everything. Maybe in labor, you couldn't care less what the room's like and you're totally inwardly focused. Really, I suppose you just need a place where you feel cared for and safe.

But, come on! A fan and ice chips is the extent of comfort that a major medical center in the state capitol can offer birthing women? (And the partners, labor support people, and medical personnel who care for them?)

Although I will miss my OB, I feel so much more comfortable in the Davis center (temperature-wise, but also, more importantly, in a general outlook on giving birth). I will gladly be driving farther to my new healthcare team in Davis.

Even though it won't be as convenient for going to work and my check-ups in the same day, I'll take a place where I feel comfortable, albeit with a longer drive, any day.

Test-driving the hospitals made the choice incredibly easy. But what I kept wondering as our tour group shuffled around the different hospital floors tonight was this: Why weren't the other women and men "kicking the tires" a little bit while they were taking their own tours?

Nobody asked any questions! My temperature question was the only one asked, and even that was a frivolous question compared to my greater questions, which I would have asked about if Brad and I weren't so sure within three minutes of the tour's start that this wasn't the place for us, and that I was hot and wanted to get out of there. Maybe everyone else on the tour felt the same way. But I suspect not everyone had ruled out the place.

I understand being shy and all, but it seemed the other ladies (and men) were way too content to just accept the conditions of the hospital, with absolutely no questions asked. Anyone buying a car would ask more questions and demand more answers from the salesperson! We're not talking about mileage and free floormats here--it's a huge, life-changing milestone in life that may or may not involve some major surgery. (And, not to keep focusing on the comparatively minor detail of the climate, but I seriously doubt anyone would even get a new car now that didn't come equipped with an a/c!)

Now, maybe I'm pushing the whole "car/driving" metaphor here. But maybe not: What did we spend proportionately the most time discussing? The fact that the hospital's hourly parking rate had gone up, and detailed instructions on where to find said parking lot. Not about the hospital's general approach to labor and delivery, or C-section rates, or episiotomies, or hospital policies. Nope, we barely even made a dent in anything of substance. I don't think that is the fault of the person leading the tour--she's the spokesmodel. Her job is to get you to like the place. The "consumers" here are the ones who need to be more involved and proactive in learning about what they're going to get.

Perhaps the other tourists liked that hospital. Maybe it was what they were looking for. Just because a place isn't the right fit for me doesn't mean it's not the perfect place for someone else. Or maybe there's an insurance limitation on where people can go, and it's their only option. But I would still have hoped to hear some questions from the test-drivers about what they can expect on the road ahead.

We left the tour, glad to live so close to Davis, and so close to a hospital with a birth center as its inspiration. It's worth the drive for me. And it was well worth the test-drive to know that for sure.


Rebecca Chastain said...

I'm so glad you get to go to the birthing center of your choice! That would definitely help me be more relaxed and less stressed about the whole process! Plus, I can't think of another single building that DOESN'T have a/c! The mall, salons, Taco Bell, car dealership show rooms, all offices, schools...I could go on, but if all these normal places that people go to have fun or just to do nothing have a/c, shouldn't the facility where people have to perform surgeries and women are giving birth have a little temperature control? I'm still amazed that the Sacramento hospital has yet to upgrade their facilities. And if they haven't upgraded to a/c, which has been around for the last, what, 15 years, then what else haven't they upgraded? Surgical procedures? Okay, maybe I'm taking it a little far, but I'm very glad that you're going to Davis.

Kate said...

May 28 update:

I just checked my e-mail for this account, and I received the following message, which I appreciate!

I am the manager of the Sutter Childbirth Education Program and want apologize for your experience on your tour of the OB department of Sutter Memorial Hospital that you referred to in your Blog – Beetle and a Baby - on May 15, 2008.

I have forwarded your response about the heat problem you encountered to our Plant Maintenance department. We were aware that there were air conditioning problems because of the recent heat wave and we are in the process of aggressively addressing these concerns.

I am sorry about the response you received when you brought up the heat problem – concerning the fans and the ice chips. We want you to know that we do everything we can to make our patients as comfortable as possible. We have air conditioning in all of the rooms and this is adjustable to the patient’s preference. We take all of our families’ considerations very seriously and we will do everything possible to provide you the OB experience that you desire.

We do appreciate your feedback and please know that your experience and comments will help us to improve the OB tour for future families.

Please feel free to call me anytime.

Thanks for the response!