Emergency births triple for mainland mothers
The number of emergency births in the city involving pregnant mainlanders who slipped through border checks almost tripled last year.
The growing number is adding to the burden on public hospitals, which are having to cope with fewer maternity professionals.
Some mothers-to-be left it so late they ended up having their babies delivered in ambulances. And the trend intensified despite efforts by border officials to single them out.
'The women are using various ways and means to cover up their pregnancies,' the Immigration Service Officers Association said.
Some wear baggy clothes and the colder weather is not helping detection as the women are wearing overcoats and more layers of clothing.
Association vice-chairman Ngai Sik-shui said: 'We are not medical experts and can't tell whether they are pregnant. When we stop them, there is always resistance.'
The women then use emergency wards to give birth, straining public hospital resources as they had not booked beds in advance.
The Hospital Authority put the number of such births at 1,453 as of November, out of a total of 10,125 mainland women who gave birth in public hospitals. The figure was almost triple the 500 emergency births in 2010.
It meant one in seven mainland women who had their baby delivered at a public hospital turned to the emergency services. But during last year, 19 obstetrics specialists left public hospitals, shrinking their number by 9.3 per cent. It was the highest turnover rate of any medical speciality in the past three years.
There could be even more emergency births this year because the government has capped the number of mainland women allowed to have babies in the city at 34,400.
Dr Cheung Tak-hong, spokesman for the Obstetrics Concern Group, said: 'There were 40 emergency births in November at the Prince of Wales Hospital. At this rate, the cases at this hospital alone could go up to 500 this year.'
At least 11 women reportedly gave birth in an ambulance before arriving at North District Hospital in Sheung Shui, putting their lives and those of their babies at risk.
One ambulance officer said: 'We have only basic training in handling births. It would be dangerous if there is a difficult delivery in the vehicle.'