York Chow makes no progress in Beijing discussions Talks between health chief York Chow Yat-ngok and Minister of Health Gao Qiang on the rapid increase in mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong made no progress yesterday. Ending a half-day visit to Beijing, arranged two months ago, Dr Chow said the key to solving the issue, which has prompted complaints that it is stretching local maternity services, would lie with the Hong Kong government, rather than Beijing. 'We didn't expect the Ministry of Health to be able to offer us any help ... we just expressed our concern [to Mr Gao],' Dr Chow, the secretary for health, welfare and food, said after the meeting. He said the concern was that most pregnant mainlanders arrived in Hong Kong without undergoing any antenatal checks. Dr Chow said he had asked the Ministry of Health to ask expectant mainland women to have such checks. 'And if they wish to deliver the birth in Hong Kong, they should undergo antenatal checks in Hong Kong,' he said. 'This is a very important message and we hope [the mainland authority] will send out the message that this is a risk [not performing any antenatal checks] not worth taking.' Dr Chow said resident expectant women would receive priority over non-resident ones for maternity services in Hong Kong. Better maternity services than those on the mainland and a Court of Final Appeal judgment in 2001 that granted identity cards to babies born in Hong Kong have lured many mainlanders to give birth in the city. Government figures show 12,398 babies were born in Hong Kong to non-resident parents in the first 10 months of the year, a 20-fold increase from 2001. Last year [2005-2006], one third, or 13,398, of the 40,752 babies were born to non-resident mothers, mostly mainlanders, in public hospitals. The trend has brought complaints from expectant mothers that they have to compete for maternity services with non-residents. Forty expectant Hong Kong mothers protested against the trend last month. The Hong Kong government is also feeling the pinch as it has to cover payments defaulted on by non-residents, which stood at HK$25.58 million in 2005-2006. Some lawmakers and legal experts have called for amendments to Basic Law provisions that grant any Chinese citizen born in Hong Kong the right of abode. During yesterday's meeting with Mr Gao, Dr Chow said they had also discussed plans for the provision of a list of qualified hospitals and medical institutions, which Hong Kong residents could use when they need medical help in cities with large numbers of people from Hong Kong. Dr Chow, who returned to Hong Kong last night, said he also suggested Beijing relax the requirements for Hong Kong's general practitioners to be allowed to invest or work on the mainland.