The Hospital Authority board has endorsed a proposal by which mainland women who have prepaid HK$39,000 for an obstetric package in public hospitals can get a refund of HK$20,000 if the pregnancy is terminated before they check in. The decision prompted criticism by a political party and a support group for mainland wives that the refund is too small and followed a protest by about 40 people outside the authority headquarters. Vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Greg So Kam-leung, an authority member, suggested it should, like the private hospitals, refund 70 per cent - HK$27,300. But authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said the HK$19,000 being kept was intended not only to cover the cost of the booking, but also to discourage non-locals from using the public services. It was therefore difficult to compare it directly with the practice of private hospitals. After discussion, most board members agreed with the HK$20,000 refund, which is expected to be gazetted and implemented late next month. A retrospective refund to cover the period from February 1 will be allowed. The authority said it did not know how many people would be eligible for a refund, but said about 30 pregnant mainlanders had failed to show up for delivery since February, when the new fees were introduced. The board also agreed to provide refunds to women whose status changed from non-local to local between booking and delivery. It originally proposed to provide a refund of HK$20,000, but most of the board members yesterday argued that once a woman had gained citizenship, she should be charged as a local person and the authority should refund all the money after it deducted service fees. Mr Wu admitted that the problem of outstanding bills among mainlanders who gave birth in the public hospitals still existed. 'We will try our best to pursue the bills,' he said. Last year, there were 9,438 children born to mainland women whose spouses were city residents.