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Be sure to have cash when you're in labor

August 25, 2009
by kate
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Between my sisters and my friends, there’s quite an impressive baby boom going on. Within the last eight months, two of my sisters and my sister-in-law have delivered babies (two boys and a girl), and two of my closest friends are expecting. So naturally, I’ve heard a lot of talk about various experiences with doctors and hospitals. And I have to say, it’s been very interesting — and in some cases, pretty eye-opening.

Last December, my sister Meg gave birth to her son Connor at CentraState Medical Center, a community hospital in Freehold, N.J. that I had toured a few months earlier with CIO Neal Ganguly. I was very happy to see that CentraState lived up to everything it said about making the patient (and family) experience as pleasant as possible. My Dad still raves about the comfortable furniture in her private room and the flat screen TVs.

For my sister Chris, however, the experience wasn’t so rave-worthy. Now, I should preface this by saying that the hospital where she delivered her daughter Riley (see photo below) last Wednesday did take very good care of the baby, which of course is most important. But I wasn’t impressed with the treatment of the mom. During her stay at the hospital, which is part of a healthcare delivery system, my sister was approached numerous times by numerous people — none of whom called her by name — with different bills and statements, often waking her up to give her documents she needed to address. I understand that hospitals need to collect on bills, but surely there is a better way than handing folder after folder to someone just coming out of (a rather lengthy) labor.

She was also approached by a photographer trying to sell her photos of her baby, and another person peddling the hospital’s custom birth announcements. All of this was happening while my sister was extremely tired and wasn’t exactly up for dealing with solicitors. What she really wanted, she told me, was for one of the random people walking in to offer her a snack.

But probably the worst part was the fact that there was a fee to watch the TV in the room. At one point during my sister’s labor while she was resting and her husband Tom went to turn on the TV, he was told it would cost $4.50 per day. Before Tom could ask the attendant to charge it to their bill, the woman asked him if that would be cash or charge. The TV watching fee, it seems, must be paid up front.

Again, I understand that these are tough times and hospitals have to make money, but there’s got to be a better way. Women who have just been through labor shouldn’t be bombarded by paperwork, they shouldn’t be approached about buying photos, and they shouldn’t have to shell out cash to watch TV.

Of course, the most important thing is for patients to get the best possible treatment, but shouldn’t caring for them be a priority too?

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