Hospital could be facing censure over birth notices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 1994, 12:00am

A LEADING private hospital could face censure from medical authorities for funding newspaper birth notices which praise the hospital on behalf of the parents.

The Hong Kong Adventist Hospital has been accused by obstetricians of seeking congratulatory publicity with the notices and of flouting a code of conduct which outlaws advertising involving doctors.

The ethics committee of the Hong Kong Medical Association has deemed the hospital's practice of paying for the birth notices improper, sources said.

Women waiting to give birth at the Adventist Hospital are invited to fill in the blank sections of a birth notice which ends with: ''We wish to thank all the midwives and staff at the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital.'' They are told the $488 bill will be paid by the hospital.

One parent said yesterday: ''They told us they would arrange the whole thing and take care of the bill. All we had to do was fill in our names.'' ''There are some rumours that certain hospitals are inducing patients to do this kind of thing,'' the association's honorary secretary and member of the Medical Council, Dr So Kai-ming, said.

''There is nothing wrong with notices that 'so and so is grateful for the birth of their son', but they should be voluntarily placed by parents as a mark of their gratitude.

''If a hospital is paying for it or making it part of a package, it contravenes the policy and professional etiquette of the medical profession.

''Certainly, a reprimand would be justified,'' he said.

The practice has troubled obstetricians who work at the hospital because of fears they will be reprimanded by the Medical Council for being linked with ''medical advertising''.

Obstetricians who do not work at Adventist Hospital said the practice was unfair because it falsely raised the hospital's profile.

''To the best of my knowledge, we have never paid for advertisements on behalf of our patients,'' the medical superintendent at Matilda Hospital, Dr Tim Dawbarn, said.

''Either the rules should be changed so that everyone can do it, or clarified so that they don't,'' he said.

A spokesman for the Adventist Hospital defended the practice, describing it as a worthy service to patients, and rejected suggestions it was a marketing ploy.

''All we are doing is giving the patients an additional service and to help people share their joy.

''The patient can say anything they like in the message, and we will still pay if they don't want to mention the hospital.

''We didn't start this as a marketing or publicity tool, but if there is a problem we will gladly look at it,'' he said.