Hong Kong's maternity wards 'can cater for 3,000 mainland mothers-to-be'
The complete ban on mainland women using city's maternity services may not be necessary, remarks by Hospital Authority expert suggest
The maternity wards in the city's public hospitals have room for 2,000 to 3,000 mainland wives of Hong Kong men per year, said the chairman of a Hospital Authority committee that oversees obstetrics and gynaecology services.
In January last year, a ban was introduced on mainland women giving birth in public hospitals, whether or not they were married to Hongkongers. Private hospitals will now only admit mainland women if they are married to Hong Kong men.
Dr Cheung Tak-hong made the remarks in a TVB talk show yesterday after Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said the authority was studying the feasibility of admitting some mainland mothers-to-be.
The policy was introduced after an influx of mainland women using the city's maternity services left local mothers-to-be struggling to find a hospital that had capacity left to accept them.
"If we take 2,000 to 3,000 of them, that means 200 to 300 for each hospital a year. It will mean one case every day - the workload is not huge," Cheung said.
Cheung admitted that maternity services for locals could still be affected due to the limited staff and beds. However, he added that the fees paid by mainland women - HK$39,000 each - would be beneficial for hospitals' long-term development and could help pay for better training.
Meanwhile, Dr Ko said he had noticed that the number of local mothers giving birth in the city had remained low after the ban against mainlanders came into effect last year.
He added that the first priority of any change in policy would be to ensure Hongkongers' services would not be affected, he added.
Tsang Koon-wing, organiser of the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association, said public hospitals should resume admitting mainland mothers-to-be who were married to local men as soon as possible.
He said that about 6,200 such women gave birth in Hong Kong's public and private hospitals from 2009 to 2011. The number dropped to 4,700 in 2012.
Private hospitals in Hong Kong charge mainlanders as much as HK$50,000, and ordinary mainlanders just could not afford it, he said.
Tsang explained that mainland women want to give birth in Hong Kong to ensure families can stay together. "If the children are not born in Hong Kong, it will take a year to 18 months to apply for the documents to come to Hong Kong. It is a lot of effort and time," he said.
"In some cases, some children have still not been allowed to come by the time they turn two. That is a problem because they need to start kindergarten at the age of three." And while the fathers remain living and working in Hong Kong, the wives have no one with whom to share the burden of child care during the long wait, Tsang said.