LCQ5: Obstetric services

     Following is a question by the Hon Jeffrey Lam and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):


     Given that mainland pregnant women giving birth in Hong Kong one after another have caused obstetric services of the public hospitals in Hong Kong to become overloaded, the Government has planned to set quotas on the admission of mainland pregnant women giving birth in public and private hospitals next year, so as to address the problem of severe imbalance between the demand and supply of obstetric services.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether it has assessed if the setting of such quotas will result in a vast number of mainland pregnant women rushing to Accidents and Emergency Departments (A&EDs) for delivery without making appointment, causing A&EDs, which are already suffering from tight manpower, to become overloaded, and affecting the normal medical services provided to other patients; whether the Government has considered substantially raising the charges on mainland pregnant women seeking admission to hospitals through A&EDs for delivery, so as to lessen their incentives to give birth in Hong Kong; and whether it will liaise with the mainland authorities to formulate more stringent measures to restrict mainland pregnant women from giving birth in Hong Kong;

(b)  whether it has examined measures to facilitate the development of related medical industries to meet the continuous increase in demand for obstetric services in future; whether it has considered setting up an obstetrics and gynaecology hospital in Hong Kong; and

(c)  given that the Hospital Authority, with a view to tackling the manpower shortage problem, has advertised for the recruitment of non-local registered doctors, and the requirements of the positions include proficiency in Cantonese and possessing a qualification comparable to the Intermediate Examinations of constituent Colleges of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, whether it knows if the response so far to the recruitment of obstetricians is satisfactory; whether the Government will consider relaxing the qualifications of non-local registered obstetricians applying for the relevant positions, e.g. by making reference to the list for exemption from "licensing examination" introduced in Singapore, and directly allow doctors graduated from renowned non-local medical schools to practise in Hong Kong, so as to alleviate the tight manpower supply for obstetric services?



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

     We have proposed a number of measures to ensure that local pregnant women are given priority for obstetric services.  Such measures include requiring non-local pregnant women who intend to have deliveries in Hong Kong to undergo antenatal checkups by obstetricians in Hong Kong at an appropriate stage for assessment on whether they are suitable to give birth in Hong Kong.  We will discuss with both public and private hospitals to determine in the first quarter of each year the number of non-local pregnant women allowed to give birth in Hong Kong in the following year.  My reply to various parts of the question is as follow:

(a)  Under the current arrangements, all non-local pregnant women who seek obstetric services in public hospitals have to make prior booking and pay for a package charge of $39,000.  For cases of delivery by emergency admission through the Accident and Emergency Departments (A&EDs) without prior booking, and/or without attending any antenatal attendance at a Hospital Authority (HA) hospital, the charge would be $48,000.  These measures can help encourage non-local pregnant women to make prior booking when using public obstetric services.

     The series of new measures proposed by the Administration, including the proposal that non-local pregnant women should receive check-ups by doctors, aim to protect the safety of pregnant women and their foetus.  We hope the pregnant women would take their own safety and that of their babies as their prime consideration and avoid the dangerous behaviour of seeking emergency deliveries through A&EDs shortly before labour.  HA will closely monitor the demand for obstetric services and the number of pregnant women seeking emergency deliveries through A&EDs, in considering appropriate measures to tackle the problem.

(b)  The healthcare services of Hong Kong are of international standard.  We aim to develop the medical industry as one of the six industries crucial to the development of Hong Kong's economy.  The development of healthcare industry can also further enhance the overall standard of healthcare services in Hong Kong.  The Administration has reserved four sites at Wong Chuk Hang, Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po and Lantau for private hospital development.  We are now formulating suitable land disposal arrangements and plan to dispose of the sites in phases starting from end-2011 or 2012.

     The new private hospitals to be developed on the four sites can provide obstetric services.  At the same time, the Administration will ensure that the new hospitals will provide quality services that meet the community's healthcare needs.  As such, the Government will formulate a set of special requirements for development of the sites, covering such aspects as scope of service, price transparency, service standard, etc.

     In addition, subject to compliance of the development with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, the Government supports the expansion and redevelopment projects of existing private hospitals for enhancement of their services as well as the development of new hospitals, so as to enhance the overall capacity of the healthcare system in Hong Kong.  To facilitate the development of the medical industry, we will continue to encourage tertiary institutions to increase student places for the relevant healthcare professions.  HA will also strengthen its manpower training accordingly.

(c)  Under the Medical Registration Ordinance, with the exception of graduates of the faculties of medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, all those who intend to obtain a practising licence through registration with the Medical Council, regardless of whether or not they have already obtained a practising licence outside Hong Kong, are required to satisfy the Council that they have completed medical training and hold a medical qualification approved by the Council, sat and passed the Medical Council's Licensing Examination and completed successfully a 12-month internship training in Hong Kong before they can register as medical practitioners in Hong Kong.  The Licensing Examination of the Medical Council aims to ensure that those who wish to register as medical practitioners in Hong Kong after receiving medical training outside Hong Kong have attained a professional standard comparable to that of local medical graduates, so as to safeguard the quality standard of our healthcare services and public health.

     The Medical Registration Ordinance also empowers the Medical Council to approve individual applications of overseas medical practitioners for limited registration for a period not exceeding one year.  Applicants must meet the qualifications stipulated in the Ordinance.  Upon approval and endorsement by the Council, they can be exempted from taking the Licensing Examination and registered as medical practitioners with limited registration.  

     In order to address the manpower problem faced by its Obstetric and Gynaecology departments, HA has taken a number of measures to strengthen the recruitment and retention of healthcare staff and improve the working environment of its staff.  HA is also planning to employ non-local doctors with limited registration on a trial basis to strengthen its manpower.  Applicants are required to have several years of experience and have acquired a qualification of intermediate examinations recognised by the constituent colleges of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.  HA will review details of the scheme in light of the response to the first round of the recruitment exercise.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:12