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Obstetric fee 'will drive couples into debt'

Concern group complains new policy discriminates against local men with mainland wives

Many local husbands of mainland women would be forced into heavy debt to pay for the increased obstetric fees charged to mainlanders, a concern group said yesterday.

It also said it was unfair for the government to continue allowing mainland wives of Hong Kong civil servants to enjoy obstetric services at a fee of as low as HK$49 a day, while the mainland wives of ordinary Hong Kong men had to pay HK$39,000 when they booked the services of a local hospital.

Civil servants and their families receive free medical advice and treatment under the Civil Service Regulations. But they have to pay the hospital maintenance fee, ranging from HK$49 a day for an Asian diet in public beds to HK$304 for first-class beds in public hospitals.

From February 1, the Hospital Authority raised fees for obstetric packages to HK$39,000 for non-local expectant mothers, which covers a confirmed booking certificate, antenatal checks, delivery and three days in hospital.

Lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan of the Confederation of Trade Unions said the difference in medical charges for obstetric services had exposed the unfairness of the new booking system, which was designed to ensure sufficient obstetric resources for local mothers.


'Civil servants are enjoying the privileges while other Hong Kong men who married mainland women are suffering from discrimination,' he said.

Government figures show 10,088 babies were born to non-local mothers and local fathers last year, a slight dip of 3.8 per cent on the previous year but still accounting for 15 per cent of the 65,194 births last year.

Under the new fee structure, delivery of these babies - unless their fathers are civil servants - will cost their parents at least HK$39,000.

Mr Lee said the new policy put the wrong focus on pregnant women instead of families as a whole.


'The clear-cut policy does not consider the integrity of the family in pregnancy as the charges only count on where the woman comes from,' he said.

The policy was unfair as a local woman who married a mainlander could still enjoy the medical benefits of a local woman, he said.


A Hong Kong vehicle technician surnamed Chan and his mainlander wife, who is three months pregnant, said yesterday the burden of the fee was unbearable. 'My husband is earning HK$7,000 a month and it is impossible for us to make the advance payment of HK$39,000 by the end of February for a booking confirmation,' Mrs Chan, who holds a two-way permit, said. 'We had considered abortion but we value the life of our first baby.'

The couple and five others in the concern group plan to complain to the Legislative Council Secretariat Complaints Division about the policy and said they would organise a protest if nothing was done.

Mr Lee said he hoped to meet Health, Welfare and Food Bureau officials after the Lunar New Year and would raise the issue in Legco's welfare panel. 'The policy lays an unbearable burden on men from the grass roots and is punishing those who married mainland women,' he said.