Further curbs for mainlanders who hope for HK birth
Ada Lee and Emily Tsang
Public hospitals will further restrict the delivery quota for non-local mothers next year while raising fees for emergency births to discourage mainlanders from giving birth in the city, lawmakers heard yesterday.
The number of public maternity places for non-locals this year is 3,400. Local media, quoting unnamed sources, said the Hospital Authority planned a 2,700 cap next year.
Reports also said charges for births within accident and emergency wards would increase from HK$48,000 to up to HK$100,000.
The authority has yet to unveil its official quota and fee level.
This comes amid concerns about Hong Kong-mainland families taking up hospital beds and medical resources to give birth in the city. Some mothers-to-be resort to overstaying without undergoing prenatal checks and then calling an ambulance when they are about to go into labour, risking their lives and those of their babies, while putting a burden on A&E services.
The situation prompted the authority to limit non-local deliveries at public and private hospitals.
Lawmakers said the existing policy was still unfair and non-local women with Hong Kong husbands should not be subjected to the caps.
Cheung Man-kwong of the Democratic Party said the policy discriminated against the women and their children. 'The nature of the policy is against humanity,' Cheung said.
Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong also supported changing the practice of including the women in the non-local category in the maternity bed queue.
Janice Tse Siu-wa, deputy secretary for food and health, said it was government policy to put local patients first, and changing the definition of 'local' would impact on services. Tse also said authorities would consider raising fees for emergency deliveries to deter non-locals.
Tsang Koon-wing, of the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association, said about 70 women due to give birth in a few months were already unable to book hospital beds.
According to government figures, 179 non-local women gave birth on emergency wards in January.
Lawmakers criticised health chief Dr York Chow Yat-ngok for not attending the panel meeting.