Half of Hong Kong births to ‘maternity tourists’

2011-11-15 09:28

More than half of all births expected in Hong Kong this year will be to mainland Chinese mothers, a news report said today.

Around 1 500 of these will take place at accident and emergency departments as “maternity tourists” attempt to evade restrictions aimed at curbing the rise of cross-border births.

Last year, around 42 000 of Hong Kong’s 88 600 births were to mainland mothers, most of whom travel over the border specifically to give birth in the city where their children will qualify for residency, along with free education and health care.

About 800 of those took place in emergency units, the Hong Kong Standard said. The number of births by mainland women has soared since travel restrictions were substantially eased in 2003.

The surge has left Hong Kong hospitals struggling to cope, and the government has now imposed maternity fees of around US$5 000 (about R40 000) per birth, a cap on births, and a compulsory booking system.

Next year, only 3 400 mainland women will be allowed to give birth in public hospitals, and 30 000 in private hospitals.

Some women allegedly try to beat the system by not booking and simply turning up at hospitals as emergency cases when they are in labour.

Others lie about due dates in order to secure a booking during a month which has not reached its set quota.

Hospital Authority obstetrics and gynaecology committee chairperson Cheung Tak-hong told the newspaper that he had been informed of 39 such cases between August and October at one hospital.

Cheung is calling on hospitals to introduce mandatory ultrasound scans for expectant mainland mothers to verify due dates.

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