Deliver us from greed when giving birth
Mammas let your babies grow up to be doctors. And make sure they become obstetricians - because what they have is a licence to print money, at least if they are in private practice.
The opaqueness with which local private hospitals charge for delivery services would shame even the financial services, an industry notorious for imposing hidden and ill-defined charges. Most of the fees, of course, line the pockets of obstetricians.
The practice is so common, long-standing and widespread it makes you wonder what took the Consumer Council so long to finally sound a warning.
This week, the council's chief executive, Connie Lau Yin-hing, called on hospitals to be more transparent about the services and charges they provide in maternity care packages. This stemmed from a council finding that the costs of such packages have jumped by almost 50 per cent in the past 18 months. The council has received 26 complaints this year over maternity packages, 22 of which were for excessive charges.
These are packages that couples take out in advance so they can budget how much they need to pay. If hospitals can unilaterally increase their costs, imagine what they could charge when you are completely at their mercy, without a pre-paid package. How about HK$50 for a cotton ball or a Q-tip? Not unknown. Your doctor doubles his fees if you stay in a single room instead of the general ward, though he performs the same service.
HK$40,000 seems to be the going rate for a client in a single room, assuming the natural birth goes smoothly. If it's a Caesarean, anything from HK$70,000 to HK$100,000 is not unusual. If you want to go for the luxury option, expect to pay anything from HK$200,000 to HK$400,000 at the most elite hospitals.
Maybe the queue for the no-frills service at public hospitals doesn't look so bad after all.