Private beds for mainland wives
Ella Lee and Ng Yuk-hang
Several private hospitals will reserve obstetric services for the mainland wives of Hong Kong men as pressure mounts on the government to take care of cross-border families affected by a recently announced cap on baby deliveries in the city.
Baptist Hospital, home to Hong Kong's biggest obstetric unit, will reserve 100 beds each month next year for mainland wives, while Union Hospital will hold 40 to 50 beds a month. The government has capped the total number of deliveries for mainland mothers at 34,400 next year - 31,000 at private hospitals and 3,400 at public hospitals.
Health officials had rejected calls to give priority in using public services to women married to Hong Kong residents, fearing it could lead to legal challenges.
However, the decision angered cross-border families, with the government now turning to the private sector for help.
Baptist Hospital chief executive Dr Raymond Chen Chung-I said the hospital had already begun reserving beds for mainland wives for bookings starting in February.
'We have encountered many difficulties in accrediting their marriage certificates,' Chen said. 'We hope that the government can take up this administrative procedure if the protected quota for cross-border families becomes a long-term policy.'
The beds for these women are reserved under the hospital's quota for mainland mothers of 10,300 next year.
'We can reserve more beds for these families if the administration can be streamlined,' he said.
Union Hospital medical director Dr Anthony Lee Kai-yiu said the reserved beds for cross-border families would be available from March. He said the reserved capacities should be shared between the hospital's quota for mainland mothers and for local mothers.
The quota on maternity services only applies to mainland mothers, not locals. So if half of the beds for cross-border families are counted as local, the hospital can then take in more patients.
'We are willing to help the government and the cross-border families but it would be unfair if the beds reserved for them are absorbed only by our quota for mainland mothers. These women have a special status as half-Hongkongers, otherwise the government wouldn't treat them differently,' Lee said.
About 6,000 mainland mothers married to Hong Kong residents give birth at local hospitals every year, about 40 per cent use private services.
Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association organiser Tsang Koon-wing said it was good that cross-border wives were offered more beds, but hoped there would be discounts on fees. 'A lot of families cannot afford private services. It would be better if they were counted as locals or given government subsidies in giving birth,' he said.
But the private hospitals said they had no plan to offer discounts.
A Precious Blood Hospital spokesman said it would be willing to offer more beds for mainland wives if they were admitted on top of the government's mandated quota. 'We have a capacity of 3,600 births although the government just gave us a quota of 3,000 per year. If we can admit these women on top of our quota, we can consider offering a discount for them,' he said.
The number of mainland women married to Hong Kong men who are due to give birth this year who still cannot get an obstetric booking