The number of pregnant mainland women in hiding and risking a dangerous last-minute delivery is rapidly rising, the new security chief told a Legislative Council panel yesterday. The Immigration Department prosecuted 54 overstaying mothers in May, compared with 29 in January. A doctors' concern group said those in hiding were likely to be mainlanders with a Hong Kong husband. The group said these women would not find it difficult to enter the city in the early stages of pregnancy and could stay illegally until giving birth. Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok and Cheung Tak-hong, a doctor and spokesman for Hong Kong Obstetrics Concern Group, said the number of pregnant mainland women overstaying in the city was rising. 'We can see that many of them crossed the border in advance, before they were 28 weeks pregnant, and some even sneaked in earlier. They then hide somewhere and wait until they have to give birth and rush to the emergency wards,' Lai said. At present, mainland women who are at least seven months pregnant are denied entry at the border if they cannot prove they have an obstetrics booking at a Hong Kong hospital. Public and private maternity wards have faced pressure from the rising number of mainland women coming to the city to give birth in order to secure right of abode for their children. The issue has led to tension between Hongkongers and mainlanders and increased workloads on public hospital staff due to a high staff turnover. But the overall number of pregnant mainlanders rushing to public accident and emergency units dropped significantly after government measures to reduce the influx. 'After the drop in these cases, a balance can finally be reached between demand and the understaffed hospitals,' said Cheung, the head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the public Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin. Lai told a Legco security panel meeting yesterday that the drop in overall cases was significant after the Hospital Authority in May doubled the fee for non-local women giving birth in public emergency wards from HK$48,000 to HK$90,000. Only three pregnant mainlanders successfully sneaked into Hong Kong in cars in May, and almost all the internet agencies that arranged such trips had disappeared. 'This shows that our enhanced law enforcement and co-operation with mainland authorities is effective in solving this problem,' Lai said. In April, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced a zero quota for non-locals giving birth at private hospitals next year. He also said children born to mainland parents would not be guaranteed residency. Public hospitals, whose 3,400 quota for non-local women was fully booked this year, will not take bookings next year for non-local deliveries.