Four private hospitals should be able to provide obstetric services to 100 mainland wives of Hong Kong men who are due to give birth this year, under a plan being hammered out by the Private Hospitals Association.
The association, which has been co-ordinating the 10 private hospitals with obstetric services, has yet to announce details of the plan, including charges and how hospitals would verify the status of the women.
The women, at least three of whom are due to deliver next month, have been unable to find obstetrics beds in Hong Kong after public hospitals shut their doors to pregnant mainlanders for the rest of this year.
People familiar with the discussions said four hospitals - Baptist Hospital in Kowloon Tong, St Teresa's in Kowloon City, Precious Blood in Sham Shui Po and Union Hospital in Tai Wai - are optimistic they can provide maternity services to about 100 mainland wives.
'The government has been working behind the scenes to fix the plan, but private hospitals can, so far, stretch only to take in about 100 mainland mothers,' one person said. 'No one knows what the hospitals can do if the number of people seeking help keeps going up.'
Maternity wards at private hospitals are full until March and bosses say it is difficult to find spare capacity.
The supply of obstetrics beds has tightened since the government capped the number of deliveries for mainland mothers at 34,400 next year - 31,000 at private hospitals and 3,400 at public hospitals.
The number of cross-border families seeking help from the Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association has increased from 94 in June to 134. More than 20 families enrolled with the group after private hospitals announced earlier this month a plan to help them. But it remains unclear how the 100 available beds would be allocated among the 134 women.
The hospitals association had said it would announce details of the plan last week, but nothing has so far been confirmed. Association president Dr Alan Lau Kwok-lam said yesterday he had 'no further information'.
The association said earlier it would consider charging cross-border families HK$39,000, the same rate as public hospitals. But Lau later said hospitals would find it difficult to set a flat rate as their costs varied.
Rights association organiser Tsang Koon-wing said the group was disappointed with the delay and had written to the Food and Health Bureau last week seeking help.
'It has been almost two weeks since the private hospitals were supposed to announce the details of the plan. This is a very unsatisfactory situation,' he said. 'It is wrong for the government to do nothing and leave the whole matter to the private hospitals, it has an obligation to help.'
Deputy medical director of the Union Hospital Dr Ares Leung Kwok-ling said his hospital would 'try its best' to help the families.
Leung declined to comment on the HK$39,000 charge, saying the matter was 'too sensitive' pending talks between the Private Hospitals' Association and the bureau.
Of 6,000 mainland mothers married to Hong Kong residents who give birth at local hospitals every year, 40 per cent use private services.