Mainland women whose husbands are Hongkongers but don't yet have permanent residency are now allowed to give birth in the city's private hospitals.
They qualify if their husbands entered the city on a one-way permit, the Food and Health Bureau said yesterday. Previously, their husbands needed to be permanent residents.
The new arrangement, which took effect yesterday, would not affect the current restrictions on the entry to Hong Kong of women seven months or more pregnant, the bureau said. If such women cannot show proof of a hospital appointment, they may be refused entry.
The concession was greeted favourably by Tsang Koon-wing, of the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association: 'The measure is reasonable and answers the needs of those mainland mothers.'
Tsang said the number of pregnant women in Hong Kong who had fallen foul of the now-scrapped permanent-residency rule was not insignificant; 12 had sought help from the association between April 25 and yesterday.
He expressed concern about the cost of giving birth, repeating previous worries that hospital fees were 'too high' for grass-roots families.
Deliveries at private hospitals can cost HK$100,000 or more, while the fee at public hospitals is HK$39,000 for non-local mothers with prior bookings.
Dr Alan Lau Kwok-lam, chairman of the Private Hospitals' Association, said they had to charge so much because of the high administrative expenses involving these women. 'The hospital staff have to provide additional body checks for mothers and help their babies get ID cards,' he said. More mainland mothers are expected to give birth in Hong Kong under the new arrangement.
'There have been a lot of advanced bookings at private hospitals from now to 2013, but I think there may still be some vacancies,' Lau said.
He said private hospitals would be able to meet the demand from next year because of plans to bar mainland women from giving birth in the city's private hospitals if they were not married to Hong Kong men.
The bureau noted that some of the women who will benefit from its concession might not have sufficient time before birth to produce all the necessary documentation.
'The couples concerned might not be able to submit their notarised mainland marriage certificates to the private hospitals in time,' it said.