Medical groups back audit of pregnant mums
Two medical professional associations have backed a call for hospitals to set up a data base to chart the treatment of every expectant mother.
It would include a mother's due date, attending doctor, number of prenatal checks, any complications and any use of neonatal intensive care services.
The database would help medical auditors track the quality of care and detect people trying to cheat the system.
The move follows criticism that neonatal and obstetric services have been overwhelmed by an influx of expectant mainland mothers.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said last month that a clinical audit system should be set up to monitor outcomes of maternal and neonatal services.
Chow asked the College of Paediatricians and the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to work out the details. The two colleges are the top training bodies for specialists in the respective fields and are responsible for upholding their professional standards.
Dr Chan Hin-biu, of the College of Paediatricians, said establishing such a database would be a groundbreaking move because for the first time doctors and hospitals would have their performance in obstetric services closely monitored.
The colleges suggest the database be operated by the Department of Health, which would issue certificates for mainland mothers to give birth in Hong Kong.
Chan, who also heads the neonatal intensive care unit at United Christian Hospital, said the colleges could use the database for peer reviews.
'The data would help us find out, for example, any exceptionally high number of Caesarean sections being performed by individual doctors or hospitals, or any of them producing a much higher number of babies requiring intensive care,' he said.
'The information would also help Hong Kong to plan ahead on its obstetric services capacity.'
Doctors in private hospitals perform many more Caesarean sections than those in public hospitals - from an average of 50 per cent to up to 75 per cent of deliveries, versus about 20 per cent in public hospitals. Elective Caesarean sections can lead to premature babies requiring intensive care.
Dr Cheung Kai-bun, chairman of the services review committee at the College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists, said the audits would expose cheats - such as expectant mothers from the mainland who falsified information to secure a booking.
'We can analyse the database and see if any doctors have problems in their practice,' Cheung said.
Some mainland mothers have been using various tricks in an attempt to get an obstetric bed booking in Hong Kong.
'Some come to the hospitals to book a maternity appointment like buying concert tickets,' another doctor said.
'If we tell them January is full, they may then say how about February or March? If there are spaces for other months, some will bring back another doctor certificate showing a different due date.'