Last year, I wrote about the various hospitals around town where you can have a baby. After doing some research we opted to head to Starcare because Mrs Sythe was expecting. We chose Starcare purely because of the good things we had heard about one of their Dr’s, Dr Anita Zutshi. This is a bit of a long post, so I'm warning you now!
We booked an appointment to see a Gynecologist and were unable to see Dr Anita and were referred to the other Dr at Starcare who handles pregnancies, Dr Bindu. After our first appointment, we decided we no longer wanted to see Dr Bindu as we just did not like her attitude, and purchased a package and insisted on Dr Anita from then onwards. The package cost us RO 450 and included all of the appointments, a number of scans and tests and the post-birth follow up appointment.
Dr Anita was very, very good, and we were very happy with her as our Dr, she was very clear and explained everything to us with great patience. The technology available was better than experienced at a local hospital in Canada. You have access to 4D ultrasound scanning, and when you go for your scan, the woman lays on a bed and has a 32” flat screen mounted on the wall in front which shows everything that’s on the monitor that the doctor uses – a nice touch.
However, the administration staff at Starcare are beyond bad. They are in another world of bad, and the number of problems caused by the administration staff eventually led to us switching to Muscat Private Hospital.
Let me explain, in the course of the pregnancy, we spent over 12 hours waiting to see the Doctor after our scheduled appointment. It was quite common to have to wait up to 2 hours after our scheduled time to see the Doctor. We started calling the administration staff the day of our appointment to ask when we should come in, only to be told to come at our allotted time because “everything is on time today”. It never was.
Perhaps the most memorable occasion was, after waiting for 2 and a half hours and seeing people go ahead of us time and time again, we discovered that the administration staff thought we had not turned up for our appointment –and that our registration card that was sitting on their desk was just there for fun. Or perhaps the best moment was being repeatedly charged for services we had already paid for in our package. Nevertheless we persevered with Starcare because we really did like and appreciate Dr Anita.
The day of the birth was also fairly stressful, as you might imagine. We have spent a great deal of time making our minds up to tell our birth story but we figured that knowledge is power, especially for people expecting a baby, or even their first like it was for us, and that we should share our experience for the benefit of others.
Mrs Sythe’s waters broke early in the morning but she never went into labour – we finally went to the hospital (even though labour had not started) in the late afternoon to get checked up – when your water breaks you are on the clock for risk of infection, you can’t just leave it forever.
We were admitted to a standard birthing suite, which has ensuite shower and toilet, a bed with a fold out grey torture device that’s apparently a bed, and there is a TV showing illegal Dish TV Indian satellite tv channels on it. As far as rooms go at a hospital it’s actually quite nice – A word to the men though – bring a pillow or two for that horrible grey bed thing.
After some time the duty midwife, a South African lady called Denise, came in to see us. She had just come right from the delivery room and had blood all over her which was a bit grizzly, but she knew we’d been waiting for quite a while and wanted to check on us before fully cleaning herself up. She was very knowledgeable and helped put us at ease and said she would call the doctor to come and check Mrs Sythe to see whats up (we still didn’t know if Mrs Sythe’s water had actually broken or not at this point).
And then it happened. Dr Bindu walked in – our Dr was away on vacation – she had told us about her vacation weeks before! Dr Bindu conducted a simple test and confirmed that the waters had indeed broken and then said she needed to carry out another test. Now, I am not a healthcare professional, and perhaps I am wrong in my thoughts here, but I think my wife was assaulted by the Dr. We never made a formal complaint because, well, we had our hands full the next day with a brand new baby and simply didn’t have the time. I’m not saying that this was an actual assault, but that’s what it felt like to Mrs Sythe.
Here’s what happened: The Dr needed to check Mrs Sythe’s cervix, and without dressing it up too much, basically fisted her. Her nails cut her down there, and when she started crying, incredulously, Dr Bindu laughed and said to her, “well how do you expect to have a baby”? And then said to the midwife that the cervix was unfavorable (I later found out that meant unfavorable for inducing).
That’s right. A Dr did that to my wife, and then laughed at her. We’re not really sure what to think because we’ve asked other medical professionals and some people say that this test the Dr did should have been done using a tool (speculum), and others say that it’s normal just to put their hand in. The real insult for us is the fact that this Dr laughed at us, at one of the most terrifying times of our lives together – we were not expecting to give birth for another 3 weeks and things were not exactly going normally.
And so we had an emergency C-Section (which cost RO 1350) which was scheduled a few hours later. We met with the anesthesiologist, who explained that he was going to administer an epidural in the procedure. Other than that we just waited in our suite until it was time.
Soon it was time for the main event, I was shown some scrubs and some sterilized shoes to wear and was led to a waiting room while Mrs Sythe was wheeled into the operating theatre. I was told someone would be out to get me in 5 minutes so I could join them all in the operating theatre.
5 minutes passed, and then 10 minutes. Finally after about 15 minutes I went investigating and found someone who I got to tell me what was going on. The anaesthesiologist had tried – and failed – 4 times (!) to successfully give the epidural and so they were going to use a general anesthetic and put Mrs Sythe out completely. I was allowed in to reassure her, and then had to go back to the waiting room.
A short while later, the new duty midwife, Binta, appeared holding the worlds cutest baby (I’m biased) and allowed me a few minutes of skin to skin contact with mini Sythe (Mrs Sythe was unconscious still) before taking her for measurements and checks. It has to be said that Binta and Denise were, and are, amazing people and were very helpful both during and after the birth, as were all the nurses on the maternity ward.
We stayed at the hospital for 3 days, and went home with our brand new baby. Only to have to come back later that night because the baby was distressed and had been crying non-stop. When you leave the hospital they give you some information, along with 2 phone numbers to call in the event of something happening. On a Sunday at 6pm, we rang both numbers and both rang and rang until they cut off. That’s right, the emergency numbers we were given were not even answered.
Not knowing what to do, we rang the duty midwife, who suggested we went to emergency with the baby, which we did. We turned up in emergency and the nurse asks: How old is the baby? We said… 3 days… and amazingly the nurse then said: so how many months is that? Uh…. 3 DAYS? So 3 months then? No, 3 DAYS.
We got in to see the duty Dr, who was clearly out of his depth. He asked what the problem was, we said… the baby won’t eat. He didn’t understand. Eventually I just grabbed mini Sythe and went upstairs to the maternity ward and found a nurse and got some help. The reason for sharing this particular part is to warn you, as can probably be expected: emergency room staff are clueless (and fair enough too) when it comes to newborn babies.
The tale continues; over the next week or so, we had to return to the hospital a further 2 times because we noticed mini Sythe was getting jaundiced, only to be told “shes quite yellow, see you later” each time. At our 2 week follow up appointment with the Paediatrician, Dr Askar, he ordered a blood test to check the level of jaundice, which was very high and subsequently we had to spend 24 hours under UV lamps back at the hospital - which did the trick and cleared up the jaundice.
And here’s the final straw: when leaving the hospital the next day, after the UV treatment had been completed, the Dr told us he wanted to have a follow up with us a few days later, and was sitting at the nurse station with me when I was making the appointment with a duty nurse, it was at 8pm on a work night a few days later. A few days later, we drove to the hospital for our follow up appointment and went to the main registration desk to report in. This is where we swore never to use Starcare ever again.
It transpired that Dr Askar was “not coming to the hospital for 2 weeks”. No one had called us, no one had informed us, and thus we had a sick baby and had arrived for our follow up appointment and no one at the hospital could help. That was it. The hours and hours and hours of waiting for Dr appointments, the Dr laughing at us, the 4 failed attempts to give an epidural and now this total failure to inform us that our Dr was “not coming” for 2 weeks. That was it, I got a full medical note history for mini Sythe printed up and left Starcare, hopefully never to return.
All I can do is share our experience here so that anyone who reads this who is expecting a baby can know. Forewarned is forearmed after all. Many people have had great experiences at Starcare – and yes their regular Dr’s and emergency treatment is actually pretty good, but for us, we wish we had never bothered and had just gone to Muscat Private Hospital to have our baby here. One final note on Starcare is this: Mothers who have their babies via C-Section there - be careful when you leave, because the parking lot is uneven and it's a pretty painful ordeal just to drive out of the parking lot and onto a level road!
Hopefully this information is of use to someone, and if you've had a good or bad experience with Starcare then please share it here too so others can benefit from it.