Feb 08, 2012
The number of mainland mothers giving birth in emergency wards of Hong Kong’s public hospitals has dropped by at least one-third recently, the health minister said on Wednesday.
The numbers have declined to fewer than 20 per week in the past three weeks, from a weekly average of 30 to 40 in recent months, said Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, speaking outside a Legislative Council meeting.
He said the decline may be the result of measures announced last month to limit the number of non-local mothers’ births in the city. “It is too soon to say whether it shows that they [the measures announced by the chief executive last month to tackle the problem] are effective, but I believe they will be effective in the long run.”
Despite the recent decrease, the 179 births last month by mainlanders was still double the 86 in January last year.
Some mainland mothers have been unable to reserve obstetrics services after the government set a quota of 3,400 births for non-local women giving birth in public hospitals this year – down from 10,000 last year. Instead, many resort to using hospital emergency wards.
During a discussion on the matter in the Legislative Council on Wednesday morning, lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo suggested the government consider penalising mainland mothers from using emergency wards for deliveries without prior pre-natal checks. The current practice could be dangerous for babies, and such a law would have a rationale similar to that for the child neglect law, he said.
Chow said the government would study the proposal.
Last month’s measures to limit births by mainlanders in Hong Kong include working with the mainland government to combat agents and vehicles bringing such women to Hong Kong, stepping up efforts to intercept non-local pregnant women at immigration control points, strengthening enforcement against unlicensed guesthouses and reviewing the fee for non-local pregnant women giving birth at emergency wards.
The number of emergency births in the city involving pregnant mainlanders who slipped through border checks almost tripled last year. The growing number is adding to the burden on public hospitals, which are having to cope with fewer maternity professionals. (SCMP)