Monday, 2 January 2012

Unwanted Baby Boom

The Chinese government needs to seriously revisit its one-child policy.

That's because Chinese citizens who can afford it will make their way to Hong Kong and give birth right across the border.

Those who can pay for it will go to a private hospital and have their baby, while others went to public hospitals. This resulted in Hong Kong women being unable to give birth in the hospital of their choice.

In the end the Hong Kong government capped the number of mainland women allowed to have babies in public hospitals to 34,400.

How they came to this arbitrary number is not clear.

While the government naively thought this would stop the flow of pregnant women to Hong Kong, they were completely wrong.

Health care workers are now seeing heavily pregnant women show up at emergency wards, straining public hospital resources because they had not booked beds in advance.

The Hospital Authority puts the number of births at 1,453 as of November 2011 out of the total 10,125 mainland women who gave birth in the city. It's almost triple the 500 emergency births in 2010.

Because of the relatively chilly winter weather, pregnant women are able to slip past the border where heavily pregnant ones should have been stopped from crossing over to Hong Kong.

"The women are using various ways and means to cover up their pregnancies," the Immigration Service Officers Association said.

Some are wearing baggy pants, more layers of clothing and overcoats.

Association vice-chairman Ngai Sik-shui said: "We are not medical experts and can't tell whether they are pregnant. When we stop them, there is always resistance."

And in some cases the women have left it so late that they have given birth in ambulances.

There are at least 11 mothers who have done this before reaching North District Hospital in Sheung Shui, putting both her and the baby at risk.

One ambulance staffer said, "We have only basic training in handling births. It would be dangerous if there is a difficult delivery in the vehicle."

It's shocking to hear to what lengths mainland women will go to to have another child or have a child who will not have a hukou or residency permit in China that determines where they live, their education and health benefits.

And it must be extremely frustrating for health care workers to have to deal with these severely late-term pregnancies with resources that are already stretched.

The Hong Kong government needs to quickly deal with this issue and really put the city's pregnant women first and tighten the borders on mainland women.

The city cannot deal with the overwhelming number of cases and the future implications of having a surge in births which lead to greater demands for health care, education and so on.

Yes, it's One Country, Two Systems, but we need to take care of our own first and foremost.

And in the meantime Beijing needs to think about allowing people to have more than one kid.

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