By BELINDA SCOTT
SARAH Hill is expecting her first baby and she has private health insurance, but she says it does not give her choice in Coffs Harbour.
Ms Hill has paid her fees and she wants what health insurance is supposed to deliver ? your choice of doctor and hospital.
But only one specialist obstetrician delivers babies at the Baringa Private Hospital and privately-insured patients at the public Coffs Harbour Health Campus are not guaranteed a private room.
The city has three specialist obstetricians and two general practitioners who do obstetrics in the public hospital.
She can have her pick of doctors or a private room ? but not both.
"You can be a private patient in the public hospital, but Caesarian patients get priority for private rooms," Ms Hill said.
She said it was ironic that private patients in fact got no choice.
"I called to make an appointment with Dr Garland but I was told he does not deliver babies at Baringa because of insurance and only delivers at the public hospital.
Ms Hill is now seeing Dr Brinsmead, who does deliver babies at Baringa, but she said when she reached 30 weeks in her pregnancy she would have to pay a $300 fee to cover her doctor's medical insurance.
However she said there was a bonus ? the expectant mother, a massage therapist who is 15 weeks pregnant with her first child ? gets free aqua aerobics classes at Baringa, which she is enjoying.
Ms Hill chose private hospital because she was unhappy with the lack of privacy she had experienced as a patient in a public hospital overseas.
Meanwhile Karangi mother Leanne Leach, who delivered her second child, daughter Trinity Joy, on November 15, says she couldn't have been happier with the care she received from her midwife and maternity staff during the water birth at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
"I can't speak highly enough about the staff at the Maternity Centre," said Mrs Leach, a public hospital patient.
"I don't think they were really keen on the water birth when I talked to them about it when I booked in at five months, but they were very supportive during the birth."
Distraught when her doctor booked in for a Caesarian section because her baby was in the breech position, Mrs Leach was overjoyed when a last-minute check by Dr Brinsmead six days before the birth showed Trinity Joy had turned herself around to be in the correct position for a natural birth.
Committed Christians who attend Coffs Harbour's Christian Life Centre, Leanne and her husband, Damon Leach, also credit the power of prayer for her short labour and the relaxed birth which saw the tiny girl delivered into her father's hands.
Dr Ian Martyn, one of only two GPs in Coffs Harbour who do obstetrics, said the city had no current obstetrics crisis; no one ever went without care and there was no insurance problem at the public hospital.
But he said Coffs Harbour could be facing a long-term obstetrics problem.
"We're all getting older and it's very hard to get obstetricians out of Sydney, so it just becomes more and more onerous for those who are left," he said.
"There are not enough obstetricians in Australia ? it's a difficult lifestyle, being up in the middle of the night and working at weekends."