Let mothers pick hospital, says Hong Kong woman who lost baby at overstretched ward

They are currently taken to the hospital nearest their home, regardless of how many other women are waiting to deliver

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2017, 1:14pm

A woman whose baby died four days after being born at an overstretched public hospital has called for expectant mothers to have more choice over where they give birth.

Current policy restricts expectant mothers to the public hospital closest to their homes regardless of how many women are booked into delivery rooms.

‘The nurse just asked me not to give birth’: Hong Kong woman says she lost her daughter because the hospital was too busy

A look at Hospital Authority figures shows demand varies greatly in the eight public hospitals offering the service. The busiest is Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, which recorded annual deliveries ranging from 6,201 to 7,301 in the past five years.

Over the same period, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan handled 2,673 to 4,167 pregnancies.

Yet there are only 28 full-time obstetricians and gynaecologists allocated for New Territories East, where Prince of Wales is located, compared with 26 for Hong Kong West – where Queen Mary Hospital handled 3,842 cases last year – and 17 in Hong Kong East, which includes Pamela Youde.

The president of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Leung Wing-cheong, agreed that women could be given a choice.

“It is a rather reasonable arrangement. It could even out deliveries across hospitals,” he said.

He explained that differences in demand could be the result of the ageing population and availability of private hospitals in some districts. Those considered at low risk of delivery should be allowed to make an informed decision.

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“But if a woman is considered as high risk, she should not go that far,” he said, referring to those aged 35 or above or suffering from other complications.

The call to give women a choice was made by a woman calling herself Mrs Chan whose delivery last October was postponed for 2.5 hours as the delivery wards at Prince of Wales Hospital were “full”. Her baby girl died four days after birth.

The hospital admitted that medics had failed to notice her pregnancy complications in time and an immediate delivery could not be arranged even though she had complained repeatedly of intense pain.

“The travelling distance might be longer, but my safety and life are the most important,” Chan said on being given the option of a more distant but less crowded hospital.

She said each hospital should know how many births would take place at a certain period based on estimated delivery dates.

“Why didn’t they disclose it?” Chan said. “I could have chosen a private hospital to deliver my baby if I knew the hospital was that full.”

Doris Ho, 31, who will have her first child in early May in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, said she would still prefer going to the nearest hospital.

“If there is any emergency and I need to call an ambulance, I would be sent to the closest hospital too. If my case has been followed up beforehand there, the care will be more complete,” Ho said.

She also worried about women flocking to more popular hospitals if they were allowed to choose.

Dr Cheung Tak-hong, chief of Prince of Wales Hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology service, said using antenatal check-up bookings to estimate service demand might not be accurate as only 70 to 75 per cent of women would eventually deliver in public hospitals.

An authority spokesman declined to say whether it would rethink the policy.