Extra beds will be provided at private hospitals this year for pregnant mainlanders married to Hong Kong men as part of a long-awaited government policy to differentiate them from mainland couples.
The health minister said yesterday that the Department of Health would issue additional delivery quotas to private hospitals serving this group of women as necessary.
Dr York Chow Yat-ngok was speaking in the wake of an announcement by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying that mainland women without a Hong Kong husband would not be allowed to give birth at the city's private hospitals from next year, although this did not apply to cross-border couples.
A decision has yet to be made on whether the same will apply to public hospitals.
Hong Kong-mainland couples will be required to provide four documents, including a marriage certificate, when booking a bed.
Four private hospitals, Union, Baptist, Precious Blood and St Teresa's, will open more spaces to accept women in this group who are expecting this year but have not yet secured a bed.
About 100 women with deliveries due before the end of next month will be able to make a booking with identity documents and provide marriage documents later.
'There has been consensus from the public that we should accept them,' Chow said.
'I dare not say the new measures are without loopholes, but I believe they are workable in general. We have to put it into practice anyway, as some people out there are waiting to give birth.'
Leung, who last week announced the 'zero quota' for mainland couples in private hospitals next year, welcomed the new measures.
The Mainland-Hong Kong Families Rights Association also welcomed the measures but expressed concerns about the cost.
Association spokesman Tsang Koon-wing said he hoped private hospitals would refer to the public ward charge of HK$39,000 when setting a price for these couples.
Deliveries at private hospitals in the city can cost up to HK$100,000 or more.
But the Private Hospital Association said it could not guarantee the price of an obstetric bed could be brought down to the public ward level as it was a marketing decision.
Baptist Hospital in Kowloon Tong and Union Hospital in Tai Wai both said they would charge this group of deliveries a market price.
The four documents that the government requires Hong Kong-mainland couples to present for a booking are a marriage certificate, husband's identity card, a declaration form by the husband and an authorisation form signed by the couple for the relevant government departments to check the documents.
Private hospitals have asked the government to clarify whether they will be responsible for verifying the documents provided by cross-border couples.
Chow said the legal burden to prove their identities and relationship should rest with the pregnant mainland women and their Hong Kong spouses.
'In order to avoid impostors, the Department of Health will conduct random checks. Any suspected cases will be referred to the law enforcement agencies,' he said.
'For marriage certificates issued in the mainland, they will be required to produce a document verified by a mainland notary public.'