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Mothers-to-be from China banned from Hong Kong public hospitals

HONG KONG - Pregnant women from mainland China will be banned from giving birth in Hong Kong¡¯s public hospitals to halt a beds crisis in maternity wards, a media report said Thursday.

The number of beds in private hospitals allocated for mainland mothers-to-be will also be cut, the Standard reported.

York Chow Yat-ngok, secretary for food and health, said the ban would be introduced from January.

He said the increase in the number of Hong Kong local mothers in recent years meant "public hospitals have to reserve all maternity beds for locals."

"Quotas for mainlanders giving birth in private hospitals (will) have to be reduced," Chow added.

Health officials have already started talks with private hospitals and a new quota is expected to be agreed in April.

This year¡¯s cap for mainland women was set at 3,000 maternity beds in public hospitals and 31,000 beds in private facilities.

The move followed an outcry last year regarding the number of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong¡¯s hospitals that made it difficult for local mothers to secure hospital beds. Estimates said 60 percent of babies born in Hong Kong hospitals last year were to women from mainland China.

As a result, immigration officials clamped down on pregnant women from China coming into Hong Kong, refusing entry to heavily pregnant women. The Immigration Department also has prosecuted Hong Kong agents involved in "birth tourism" for breaching immigration rules.

Mainland women are keen to have their babies born in Hong Kong because the newborns have an automatic right of abode, which offers better job and travel prospects in the future.

Chief Secretary for Administration Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the tougher controls have been effective after an average of 20 pregnant mainland women a week now visit hospital emergency wards to give birth. That was half the number in October.

Web link: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/international

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