Moves to charge mainland mothers at least $20,000 to give birth in Hong Kong will not deter women from using medical resources and then absconding across the border, a legislator said yesterday. The government is seeking Legislative Council approval for the fee for obstetric services, covering the first three days of a mainland mother's hospital stay. Extra days will be charged at the current $3,300 per day. The number of non-resident mainland women who gave birth in Hong Kong's public hospitals rose from 8,727 in 2002-03 to 12,293 in 2004-05. They account for more than 30 per cent of hospital births. The Hospital Authority said $21.9 million in medical fees was owed by mainlanders in 2002-2003, with $2.6 million owed for maternity services. The total amount owed by mainlanders rose to $59.5 million last financial year. Medical-sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said the proposed fee would not deter absconding mothers. 'I do not think it can solve the problem. It is very difficult to collect and ... we have no means to charge or prosecute them,' said Dr Kwok. But he said the plan could send 'a strong message to pregnant women in China that we are paying a lot when they come to Hong Kong to give birth. They actually put so much stress on our system'. Meanwhile, Louis Shih Tai-cho, chairman of the Health and Medical Advisory Committee's primary-care group, denied reports that all 65 public outpatient clinics would be scrapped. The group is exploring ways to improve the delivery of primary health care and its report will be completed in July.