Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hong Kong rejects pregnant Chinese women

Hong Kong ready to turn away pregnant Chinese women

Jan 17 2:13 AM US/Eastern

Authorities in Hong Kong are ready to turn away pregnant women from mainland China under new measures to stem an influx of expectant mothers criticised for taking up hospital resources, officials said.

The Immigration Department said the policy, announced on Tuesday and effective from February 1, would bar mainland Chinese women who are at least seven months pregnant from entering Hong Kong unless they are booked in at a hospital here.

"Those who fail to do so will be denied entry and repatriated," said David Chiu, assistant immigration director.

A government spokesman said the measures were aimed also to deter non-local pregnant women seeking last-minute admissions to hospital accident and emergency wards for delivery.

There has been an influx of mainland Chinese pregnant women coming to Hong Kong to give birth. The number grew from 3,600 in 2004 to 8,800 in 2005 and to 11,716 in the first half of 2006, overwhelming the city's hospitals.

The authorities said many of the women who gave birth in Hong Kong failed to pay their bills before returning home.

The problem has drawn fierce complaints from local expectant mothers, many of whom say they have arrived at their due date but cannot be admitted because of a shortage of hospital beds.

They have also complained about the difficulty in receiving proper medical treatment in time due to a lack of doctors and nurses.

Hong Kong's Hospital Authority said that under the new policy, it will now reserve sufficient places for local pregnant women to ensure they have priority obstetric services.

Non-residents will be accepted only if extra places are available, and will also face a higher minimum charge.

The new measures will also apply to private hospitals.

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