Monday, 25 April 2016

Too Many Births, Too Little Money

About 400 pregnant mainland mothers show up at Hong Kong emergency wards
There were news reports today saying three years after Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced a "zero-quota" policy banning mainland women from having babies in the city, there were still about 800 cross-border births each year.

Almost have of the babies were born in already overcrowded public hospitals so that they could get right of abode in the city.

Before Leung's announcement, there were some 200,000 babies born to mainland parents here. This followed the 2001 ruling that newborns should be given right of abode status.

Babies in the nursery of a public hospital
However 800 babies born of mainland parents seems like a lot, and the policy needs to change.

Last year there were 755 babies born to non-local parents last year among a total of 60,083 births. Half of the 755 births took place in public hospitals, the rest in private ones.

Doctors say with mainlanders gatecrashing Hong Kong hospitals, these mothers are putting not only themselves and their babies at risk, but also compromises local mothers who are waiting to use such urgent hospital services.

What's probably even more interesting is that while mainlanders may gate crash public hospitals to give birth, they even avoid paying hospital fees.

A record HK$52 million in debts were racked up last year by public hospitals -- mostly due to mainland couples who refused to pay for treatment. In 2014, the amount was HK$45 million.

Public hospital debts rose to HK$52 million this year
Around HK$7.6 million of the HK$52 million in debt were mainlanders who went to Hong Kong accident and emergency units. For non-local mothers to give birth it costs them HK$100,000 for the delivery and three days' hospital stay.

"Even though there is no way to turn away mainland parents with urgent medical needs due to humanity reasons, there should be more administrative measures to make them pay," said lawmaker and doctor Kwok Ka-ki.

Public hospitals depend on subventions to provide an almost free service to Hong Kong people.

It is believed mainlanders use public hospitals by registering with fake addresses, and then skip town.

Critics say the government is being too passive -- that it sends medical bills to these defunct addresses, and when nothing happens, legal action is taken, but they're not going to catch anyone who gave a fake address.

Kwok says the authorities should be more stringent by forcing mainland parents to pay up before issuing birth certificates.

One would have thought these mainlanders would not mind paying up for good medical service, especially for their children, but it seems like they know they can evade the hospital bill and do so.

How embarrassing is that, that the Hong Kong government does nothing about this serious loophole?

It just gives the impression the city is too rich to even acknowledge this serious oversight and so yet another mainland baby is born in Hong Kong with right of abode, and for free! Talk about a double bonus!

It's too embarrassing and guess who has to foot the bill?

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