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LCQ20: Obstetric services

     Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (April 13):


     According to Government statistics, a total of 82,095 babies were born in Hong Kong in 2009, 35,979 of them were born to mainland women.  Among the latter, the number of babies born to mainland women whose spouses were not Hong Kong permanent residents was 29,766, which more than tripled the figure of 9,273 in 2005.  With regard to the increasing demand for obstetric services in public hospitals, will the Government inform the Council:

(a) whether it knows, in each year between 2005 and 2009, the respective numbers of mainland pregnant women who returned to the Mainland and those who stayed behind after giving birth in Hong Kong, as well as the annual changes in such figures in terms of number and percentage;

(b) given the drastic increase in the number of mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong and their demand for local obstetric services in recent years, whether the Government will further review the existing policy on the provision of obstetric services to mainland pregnant women with a view to ensuring that the services provided to local pregnant women will not be affected; if it will, of the details with respect to the factors to be considered for setting the level of the fees for the obstetric service package payable by Non-eligible Persons (NEPs); if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether it knows, following the implementation of the revised arrangements for obstetric services for NEPs by the Hospital Authority (HA) since February 1, 2007, the respective percentage changes in the number of NEPs and eligible persons using HA's obstetric services in the past three years; and

(d) given that the authorities indicated in January 2010 that the delivery capacity in HA had been fully utilised in 2008 and 2009, whether the Government has examined the feasibility of increasing the delivery capacity in public hospitals; if it has, of the details, including whether the manpower resources available at present will be able to cope with the additional workload or there is a need to recruit additional healthcare staff; if there is such a need, of the details?



     It is the Government's policy to ensure that Hong Kong residents are given proper and adequate obstetric services.  The Government is very concerned about the surge of demand for Hong Kong's obstetric services by non-local women (including Mainland women) in recent years, which has caused tremendous pressure on the overall obstetric services and manpower in Hong Kong.

     To ensure local women can receive proper and priority obstetric service, the Hospital Authority (HA) has implemented since February 1, 2007 revised arrangements for obstetric service for non-local women (including Mainland women).  Under the revised arrangements, all non-local women who wish to seek obstetric service in public hospitals have to make prior booking and pay for a package charge of $39,000 (the fee for cases without booking is $48,000).  HA would reserve sufficient places in public hospitals for delivery by local pregnant women and would only accept booking from non-local pregnant women when spare service capacity is available, so to ensure that local pregnant women have priority in using obstetric services.  Booking system has also been in place in the private hospitals.   The Immigration Department has also stepped up arrival clearance checks.  Pregnant Mainland women who are suspected of entering Hong Kong to give birth will be asked to produce the booking confirmation certificates issued by Hong Kong hospitals upon entry, to prove that a local hospital has confirmed the arrangements for their admission.  Those who fail to do so may be denied entry.

     With the above measures, our healthcare system has been able to fully meet the demand of local women for obstetric service.  As the demand of local obstetric services by non-local women (mainly from the Mainland) has continued to increase in recent years, the Food and Health Bureau is now discussing with the HA, frontline healthcare staff of public hospitals and private hospitals to work out suitable measures to tackle the issue.   The Government will collect from each hospital information on its facilities, service capacity, number of booked cases, as well as the number of cases referred from the private hospitals to the public hospitals, for detailed analysis and consideration on the capacity of obstetric services of the public and private sectors.   My reply to different parts of the question is as follows -

(a) Babies born in Hong Kong to Mainland women are classified according to the resident status of his/her father as Type I babies (father being a Hong Kong Permanent Resident) and Type II babies (father not being a Hong Kong Permanent Resident).  The Census and Statistics Department conducted three rounds of "Survey on babies born in Hong Kong to Mainland women" in January to March 2007, January to February 2009 and October to December 2009 at the Births Registries.   The purpose of the surveys is to study parents' intention about their babies' future living arrangements.  The results of the surveys are set out in Annex A.  

     The results of the abovementioned three rounds of surveys showed that about 65%, 53% and 47% of the parents of Type I babies respectively indicated that their children would stay in Hong Kong immediately.  For Type II babies, the corresponding proportion in the first round was 9% and those in the second and third rounds were both 3%.

     In addition, according to the results of the three rounds of surveys, about 35%, 47% and 53% of the parents of Type I babies respectively indicated that their children would not stay in Hong Kong before age one.  For Type II babies, over 90% of parents in all three rounds of surveys indicated that their children would not stay in Hong Kong before age one.

     The information as to whether Mainland women would go back to the Mainland or stay in Hong Kong after they had given birth in Hong Kong was not collected in the abovementioned surveys.

(b) and (d) As mentioned above, it is the Government's policy to ensure that Hong Kong residents are given proper and adequate obstetric services.   The healthcare of local pregnant women should not be compromised under any circumstances.  The existing booking system in place in public hospitals can ensure the local pregnant women have priority in using obstetric services.

     We are now discussing with the public and private hospitals the measures to limit the use of obstetric services by non-local women.  HA will take into account Hong Kong's birth rate and trend, the number of non-local pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong, the demand and supply of healthcare professionals and the supporting hardware; and suitably adjust the capacity of obstetric service of public hospitals when necessary.  Meanwhile, the private hospitals have agreed not to expand their maternity services in the short term.   HA and the private hospitals will also review their respective training programmes for nurses at obstetric and neonatal services to ensure they can cope with the demand of our community in the medium and long term.

(c) The number of deliveries in public hospitals of HA in 2008 to 2010, and the comparison of year-on-year changes are set out at Annex B.

Ends/Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:09


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