Mainland mothers in 'high-risk game'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2011, 12:00am


Mainland wives of Hong Kong men who say they will rush to emergency rooms to give birth because they cannot get beds in maternity hospitals will put themselves at even greater risk if they go to a hospital with no obstetrician on duty, doctors warn.

Of the 14 public hospitals with accident and emergency departments, only eight have obstetric services. This means they have obstetricians on call round the clock with proper maternity rooms and equipment for emergency and complicated deliveries. The remaining six need support from nearby hospitals.

'It is already very risky for mothers to deliver at emergency rooms without proper neonatal checks, as they may suffer from diabetes and hypertension, but it will be more dangerous if they go to a hospital without obstetric services,' said Dr Chan Hin-biu, the head of neonatal intensive care at United Christian Hospital. Some 95 mainland women married to Hong Kong men - mostly in the New Territories and Kowloon - who are due to give birth this year but cannot get an obstetric booking, sought help from the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association.

Three are due late next month and about 20 will deliver each month from September to December. Some have said they will make a last-minute dash to emergency rooms so that their children can be born in Hong Kong and enjoy full residency.

Emergency-room doctors are not trained to deal with complicated life-threatening births, such as obstructed labour, and obstetricians and paediatricians at public hospitals have been discussing how to deal with the expected influx.

Chan said doctors faced a dilemma. 'As doctors, we are always concerned about the safety of both mother and baby. But at the same time, we can't come out and openly tell mainland mothers which emergency rooms they should go to because it may encourage more to do so,' he said.

The Hospital Authority plans to arrange with the Fire Services Department for ambulances to take women in labour directly to emergency rooms with obstetric support.

Individual hospitals have been asked to review their staffing and check whether they have enough medical equipment to support mothers and newborn babies.

Dr Fung Hong, the chief executive of the New Territories East hospitals group, said the situation with mainland wives put frontline staff under pressure. 'We have encountered some pregnant mothers turning up at accident and emergency rooms at the last minute... we have the experience in dealing with such emergencies,' he said.

Dr Leung Wing-cheong, head of obstetrics at Kwong Wah Hospital, said medical staff were alert to any such emergency but it was not something new. 'We have come across mainland mothers who hid themselves at hostels in Mongkok, arranged by agents, and then turned up at the door of the emergency room when they started going into labour.'

Acute hospitals with obstetric services are Tuen Mun, Kwong Wah, Princess Margaret, Queen Mary, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth, United Christian and Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital.