Medical sector fears impact of a ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am

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The city's health chief has urged private hospitals to stop accepting 2013 bookings from pregnant mainlanders who do not have Hong Kong husbands, as Leung Chun-ying plans a ban on births by 'transit mothers'.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok's comments yesterday came a day after the chief executive-elect's shock announcement that the quota for births by such mainland mothers would be set at zero next year.

Chow added that hospitals should hold off bookings until after Leung takes office on July 1.

'It would be more appropriate for the new government to announce, after it comes to power, the arrangements for transit mothers giving birth in Hong Kong in 2013,' Chow said.

Meanwhile, the mainland wives of Hong Kong men will be required to produce documents proving their husband's identity so they can make bookings for next year at private hospitals and obtain a border-entry permit from the Department of Health, Chow said.

The zero-quota plan has won praise from the public but alarmed hospital bosses, who have invested heavily in obstetrics facilities since 2008 amid the swelling number of mainland mothers coming to give birth in Hong Kong.

Medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau said in a radio interview yesterday that the ban might force hospitals to shut down or 'become homes for the elderly instead'.

Obstetrics services make up half of one hospital's business, and 90 per cent of its obstetrics patients are not Hong Kong residents.

Cleve Wong Hin-chai, a manager at the Caritas-backed Precious Blood Hospital, said the zero quota could breach legal restrictions on the government's ability to dictate which patients private hospitals can serve. 'We're not sure how [Leung] is going to do it,' Wong said.

Private Hospitals Association chairman Dr Alan Lau Kwok-lam said the Precious Blood Hospital had suffered a deficit four years ago, and recovered by relying on its obstetrics services.

Dr Kun Ka-yan, a private specialist in obstetrics, said the limit on bookings from mainlanders would cut his income by half. He expects the situation will be even worse for inexperienced private obstetricians and those working at private hospitals, as up to 90 per cent of their patients are likely to be from the mainland.

But Democratic Party lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong and Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, agreed with Leung's move. Both said that private hospitals, which have been making huge profits, should find their own way out of the problem.