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October 22, 2009

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Pregnant women make rush on HK hospitals

PREGNANT women from Chinese mainland are cramming privately run Hong Kong hospitals.

The trend follows the special administrative region's hospital authority shutdown last week of delivery services at public hospitals to mainlanders to cope with an imminent baby boom.

Two private facilities, Hong Kong Baptist Hospital and Union Hospital, said their beds for mothers-to-be had been booked out through next March, yesterday's Guangzhou Daily reported.

Hong Kong Baptist received 9,660 mothers-to-be this year, 70 percent from the Chinese mainland, a hospital spokesperson told the newspaper.

Hong Kong has witnessed a sharp increase of mainlanders opting to give birth there, with the number soaring to 25,000 in 2008 from 620 in 2001, Hong Kong Hospital Authority's data indicated.

Public hospitals are usually a prime choice because of lower prices. The cost is about HK$39,000 (US$5,032) at a public hospital and HK$70,000 at private facilities in Hong Kong.

Most mainlanders are from Hong Kong's neighboring Guangdong Province. Some go to Hong Kong to bypass the mainland's one-child policy. Others want their children to be entitled to Hong Kong's social welfare benefits.

The shutdown is to cope with a Hong Kong baby boom expected from September to December. The hospital authority said the service would be reopened to mainlanders from next year.

In 2007, the authority introduced a policy that hospitals must first ensure service for natives before extending it to mainlanders.

Mainlanders must pay HK$39,000 before giving birth in Hong Kong, compared with a mere HK$300-HK$400 price tag for natives.


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