Curbs on mainland mothers 'good for babies'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 April, 2011, 12:00am


The junior health minister yesterday sought to justify fresh curbs on mainland mothers-to-be giving birth in Hong Kong by saying the move would be good for their babies.

Professor Gabriel Leung said doctors who allowed mainland women to give birth early risked their babies' health and put hospitals under pressure.

'Some mothers arranged to deliver babies in the 35th or 36th week of pregnancy. This adds a burden to hospitals' neonatal intensive care units. If we can prevent this happening, it will be good for the babies,' Leung said.

The undersecretary for food and health was speaking after Private Hospitals Association chairman Dr Alan Lau Kwok-lam admitted some doctors were arranging for women to deliver babies prematurely within 24 hours of first seeing them.

On Thursday the government said it would tighten up its scrutiny of the doctors' certificates mainland mothers-to-be must present in order to give birth at city hospitals.

The issuing of certificates will be centralised to stop unscrupulous doctors and middlemen on the mainland issuing them, and doctors issuing the certificates must follow new guidelines when determining whether a pregnancy is normal. Women whose pregnancies are not deemed normal will not be permitted to give birth in Hong Kong. The Food and Health Bureau will co-operate with the Immigration Department to stop pregnant women from rushing across the border.

The moves are the latest of several intended to stem the flood of mainlanders giving birth in the city, which is putting a strain on hospitals. Mainland women have been banned from booking births in Hong Kong for the rest of this year.

Leung said the centralisation of certification would leave the Department of Health better placed to know how many mainlanders would give birth in the city each year.

'Each certificate comes with a code, and that code records which doctor and hospital they're with. There will be no agencies involved, and we would have better control of the number of deliveries.'

He said those whose pregnancies were judged to be high-risk should undergo checks every one or two months, and it would unwise for mainland mothers to travel to Hong Kong so frequently when their pregnancy was already at risk. It was therefore unlikely that such mothers-to-be would get certificates.

The policy will be piloted in some private hospitals in the first quarter of next year and is expected to be expanded by the second quarter.

The number of certificates to be issued will be reviewed each year according to the availability of beds and medical staff.

Whatever the circumstances, 'local mothers are to be taken care of first. This would apply to both public and private hospitals,' Leung said.

Special arrangements would be made for mainland women married to Hong Kong men.