Hong Kong restricts mainland babies

HONG KONG, April  8, 2011 (AFP) - Hong Kong said Friday its public hospitals would not accept women arriving from China to give birth in the territory which has been struggling to cope with the tens of thousands who land each year.

The number of mainland women who opt to deliver across the border in the glitzy financial hub has been growing and reportedly accounted for nearly half of Hong Kong's 88,000 births in 2010.

Hong Kong's Hospital Authority said public hospitals would not accept non-local pregnant women with immediate effect up to the end of the year to ensure sufficient places for local women, with the number of Hong Kong mothers expected to increase.

"The increasing trend of local pregnant women giving birth in public hospitals is projected to continue this year," a spokesman said in a statement.

"In the light of this increasing trend, proactive measures have to be implemented to ensure that the available capacity in public hospitals would be sufficient to meet the demand from local pregnant women."

The government has come under pressure in recent weeks after doctors made a rare public call for a cap on the number of babies delivered in the city as resources for local mothers are stretched thin.

Mainland mothers are keen to give birth in Hong Kong, a city of seven million that maintains a semi-autonomous status within China, because it will entitle their child to rights of abode and education.

The government is already considering regulations to limit the number of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong.

Health secretary York Chow said Wednesday the government would set a quota for mainland mothers based on available facilities, manpower and demand at the city's hospitals.

The new regulations, to be finalised in coming months, will apply to eight public hospitals and 10 private hospitals with maternity units in the southern Chinese city.