Having now experienced a C-section at both hospitals in Mahasarakham, my wife and I spent today comparing them and we’ve come to a conclusion: The government hospital is better for childbirth, and in a couple years (when construction of the new children’s wing is supposed to be completed) will probably be on par with anything Khon Kaen can offer with the exception of Khon Kaen Ram (which is on a different level than other hospitals in the region in many aspects, because of much deeper pockets).
Background: Our first baby, Max, was born a month early and as a breech baby, which necessitated a C-section (In Thailand, a Caesarean is called a “Caesar.” I personally prefer “Caesarean” to the Americanized version, “Cesarean,” because of the root origin.). We had been contemplating having the baby at one of the two hospitals in Khon Kaen mentioned above, but we hadn’t checked them out yet and when we got in the car, my wife didn’t want to endure the 45 minute drive to Khon Kaen. So we decided on the government hospital (Mahasarakham Hospital), mainly because Nam has good nurse friends there. We’d actually checked it out the day before and were apprehensive because (A) the facilities were old and dirty and (b) being a government hospital, there are masses of sick people lining the hallways (also, up here in the country, patients are often accompanied by entire families who lay out straw mats in the hallways for eating, waiting, and staying over). One thing that worked out in our favor was that while the natural childbirth rooms were appalling (three cots per room, no partitions, no air con, cobwebs and dirty acoustic ceiling tiles paired with ceiling fans, etc.), the surgical facilities were clean and modern.
The main problem with the government hospital, however, is overcrowding. There’s nothing like carrying your newborn through throngs of dirty and diseased to make you crave a clean environment… And that’s the main reason we decided to have shrieking child prodigy #2 at the private hospital, down the road behind SermThai department store, in downtown Maha Sarakham.
At first, it seemed like we had made the best choice, but a variety of factors proved this to be wrong. This hospital has just started a process of rebranding as Thai Inter Hospital Mahasarakham, which basically means that they have new letterhead and a new logo, and plenty of neato blueprints and design concepts posted around, but as of right now, it’s just a semi-old private hospital with a new name (as a side note, there was a poster in our room saying they have ties with this facility in Koh Samui). The first big problem was directly related to this rebranding process – they were completely redoing the room directly above the ICU with sledges, hammer drills, tile saws, the whole bit. This was a bit disconcerting, to say the least… I briefly entertained the idea of wheeling Nam and the baby out of the hospital and up the street to the public hospital. It was pretty bad. Luckily, the nurses let me take the baby up to our private room and Nam followed an hour later when she got cleared from the ICU. This problem is a temporary one, but there were other problems that were rooted deeper in the system.
The nurses were mostly inexperienced. Some were young and inexperienced, other were inexperienced with newborns. This is a big problem in a maternity ward. Luckily, this was our second time, so we could recognize shaky decisions and when to question them.
- The only pediatricians on staff (1 or 2) were part time and visited only once a day.
- Overall, doctor visits were too few and seemingly meaningless. Random doctors would wander in, glance at the baby, comment on the musical teddy bear we’d brought to sit next to her (thanks, mom!), and as we later found out, bill us for their presence.
- The sheets and hospital gowns were old, cheap, worn out, and worst of all, poorly designed and ill-fitting. We were willing to pay extra for better service than could be had at the government facilities, so we wanted better basics.
- The FREE! WIRELESS!! INTERNET!!! was broken and nobody knew how to fix it…nobody even understood what was broken… I immediately recognized this situation as hopeless and subscribed to DTAC internet service on my mobile (200 baht for 100 hours/month) and tethered it to my notebook.
- Billing problems… even the hospital administrator in charge of our account eventually admitted to irregularities and cut 30% off our bill. We had to work for it, though. The basic problem was that they tried to get us to pay for extraneous items, be they things like a (seemingly complementary) bag of cheap toiletries at 10 or 20 times markup, or meaningless services like official doctor visits where the doctor gets a cut for just being in the room for a minute… and It’s not like we aren’t aware that this is standard practice elsewhere, it’s just that we are unwilling to accept it. So we pulled our ace and simply stated that if they insisted on unfairly charging us, we’d let everyone at both our universities know about it. So yeah, they cut down the bill three times and it eventually came to 30% of the original amount… But the very fact that they started out at such an overinflated figure hints at an endemic problem.
So far, it’s taken me eleven days to get this post to this point… and both babies are crying again…