Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SCMP: Hospitals may ban mainland mothers [Roast Pork Sliced From A Rusty Cleaver] (飲水思源)

Top health official declares public wards could be made out-of-bounds for non-locals next year as they struggle to meet needs of Hong Kong women

Lo Wei, Colleen Lee and Emily Tsang
Feb 01, 2012

Public hospitals may stop admitting pregnant mainlanders seeking to give birth in Hong Kong to make more facilities available to local women, a senior Hospital Authority official said yesterday.

Speaking in a radio interview, Dr Cheung Wai-lun, the authority's director of hospital groups, said: "We are evaluating next year's quota for non-local pregnant women. There is a chance we might further lower it or we may even stop admitting them."

A quota of 3,400 births has been set for non-local women in public hospitals this year, down from 10,000 last year, and Cheung said it could be lowered even further.

He said the primary aim of public hospitals was to meet local needs.

A decision on quotas for mainland mothers would be made after considering the number of births to local parents and the number of women choosing public medical services over private ones.

Mainland mothers-to-be have an incentive to give birth in the city because of its hospitals' standard of medical care and the right of abode that is conferred to the child under the terms of the Basic Law, the mini-constitution agreed between Beijing and the city's colonial government before the handover in 1997.

Obstetric wards at public hospitals are now fully booked until September.

The quota of 3,400 for non-local women was imposed after the total number of births at public hospitals hit an all-time high of 45,000, which Cheung said exceeded the hospitals' capacity.

The authority's Accident and Emergency Central Co-ordinating Committee chairman, Dr Simon Tang Yiu-hang, said he was worried that reducing the quota for public hospitals even further would encourage more pregnant mainlanders to go to emergency wards, where 1,656 such births were recorded last year.

All public emergency wards have now been equipped for deliveries and for rescuing newborns, and staff have been trained for deliveries.

But Tang emphasised that mothers were taking a considerable risk if they resorted to giving birth this way.

Dr Bill Chan Hin-biu, of the Hong Kong Neonatal Service Concern Group, said the cap on mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong was necessary to control doctors' workloads, as there was a shortage of manpower and experienced staff.

Chan said deterring mainland women from seeking to give birth in emergency wards would depend on whether the government could stop pregnant women at the border, through improving co-operation with mainland authorities.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said the NPC had stated in 1999 that babies born to visiting mainland parents in Hong Kong should not be given the right of abode.

But in 2001, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that the right of abode should be given to Chong Fung-yuen, who was born while his parents were in the city on two-way permits.

Fan said, given that the city's government had still not sought a reinterpretation from Beijing after the court's ruling, it now had to consider how to cope with the influx of mainland women giving birth here.

"If the executive measures are found to be ineffective ... the government should discuss with the central government how to solve the problem," Fan said, speaking on the sidelines of a business function. (SCMP)

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