Hospitals agree to 'zero quota' on births in HK
Danny Mok, Emily Tsang and Tony Cheung
Private hospitals will stop taking pregnant mainland women who do not have Hong Kong husbands next year, as proposed by chief-executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.
The 12-member Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association, which had raised opposition to Leung's announcement last week, agreed to go along with the 'zero quota' proposal at a meeting last night.
They said they would only provide obstetrics services for mainland women married to Hongkongers.
However they called on the next administration to come up with a system to identify pregnant mainland women with Hong Kong husbands, to avoid any legal liabilities.
The association said it would be up to individual hospital members whether to shrink their obstetrics services and adjust their service charges.
As well as the zero quota announcement, Leung also said last week that children born to mainland parents would not be guaranteed residency. He has since said he will tackle the right of abode issue through legal means once he takes up office on July 1.
Leung's proposal originally shocked private hospital bosses, who claimed they would have trouble surviving if the zero quota came into force, and until last night's meeting it was thought that opposition had been growing.
Before the meeting, Dr Yu Kai-man, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Union Hospital, Tai Wai, said: 'If a patient is at our hospital already and requires treatment, we need to give her the service regardless of her identity and race. We will not turn her down or pick and choose patients. This is not ethical.'
However, Yu added that the hospital would not accept any deposits from mainland women not married to Hongkongers who were trying to make a booking 'so that we don't give them false hope'.
'A letter will be presented to them to explain the current situation, including the possibility that the pregnant mainlanders may not get through the border and that the babies may not gain permanent residency under the new policy,' Yu said.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok admitted earlier that the government was unable to issue a complete ban on private hospitals accepting pregnant mainlanders if they decided not to co-operate, as licensing conditions could not restrain the hospital from accepting a certain type of patient.
Officers at the border meanwhile are getting ready for a big increase in their workload.
Ngai Sik-shui, Immigration Service Officers Association vice-chairman, said several hundred extra officers would be needed to turn back pregnant mainlanders, who could only enter Hong Kong by presenting a delivery booking certificate issued by the Department of Health.
Meanwhile, Dr Chow Pak-chin, an adviser on medical issues to Leung's election campaign, said in a radio interview that he believed the core job of the local medical sector was to serve local people first. Serving non-residents and making profits should come only if hospitals had spare resources.
'We can say that some private hospitals are not abiding by their reason for existing, so much so that Hong Kong citizens cannot get the service they deserve,' said Chow, an eye doctor and vice-president of the Medical Association. 'This has harmed our people.'
The problem was not limited to private hospitals, he said. Even public hospitals were running out of beds and operating rooms, hindering access by Hongkongers.
The first priority for the new government, Chow said, would be to inject more resources into both the private and public medical sectors in the right balance.
Referring to Leung's proposed zero quota, he said: 'We must [so to speak] stop the bleeding first, and then we can do other things.'