Charity to the rescue as abortion hospital shuts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2012, 12:00am


The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong plans to expand its abortion service after the closure of a private hospital that performed more than half of the city's terminations.

Despite the move, the health minister told legislators yesterday he was worried that public hospitals may face heavier demand for abortions.

Almost 60 per cent of legal abortions in the city - or about 5,000 per year - have been conducted at Hong Kong Central Hospital. Last month it was ordered to move off the site in Central that it has occupied for more than 50 years, after its lease expires.

It will close on September 3 and has started winding down already, prompting concerns about the reduction in abortion services.

'We hope the Family Planning Association can try its best to resolve the needs, but it really depends on its resources and capacity,' Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said yesterday, in his first health panel meeting in the Legislative Council.

However, the Family Planning Association provides abortions for women only up to 10 weeks pregnant. After that point, women must go to a hospital. Abortion is legal in Hong Kong up to 24 weeks. The association, the largest advocate of birth control, conducts about 2,000 abortions a year, 20 per cent of the city's demand. It can stretch its services to 3,000 a year at its existing facility.

The association was calculating extra resources it may need - in manpower, equipment, drugs and consumables - an official said yesterday.

Public hospitals conduct about 1,000 abortions each year.

Ko said: 'I am still slightly worried that, in the end, the public hospitals will have to bear some of this burden, which may add some pressure to their obstetric services.

'Many private hospitals do not like accepting termination of pregnancy cases, even when it is legal, due to religious beliefs ... this cannot be forced by the government.'

An abortion costs between HK$3,000 and HK$4,000 at the association, and can be far more expensive at private hospitals. Union Hospital in Sha Tin charges between HK$16,000 and HK$32,000.

On another issue, Ko said that when Hong Kong Central Hospital shut down, 'the government will ensure all patients will be allowed to pick up their own personal records over a reasonable period of time'.