In today's HKStandard - 7/1/10

City hospitals are preparing for a new surge of mainland women wanting to give birth here, after maternity agents who offer special Hong Kong packages slashed their prices.

Fierce competition has seen mainland-based agents cut their fees by nearly half from 30,000 yuan (HK$34,067) to 16,800 yuan, after the Hospital Authority last Friday lifted its restrictions on mainland mothers booking its maternity services.

About a quarter of the 40,000 babies born in public hospitals in 2008 were children of non-Hong Kong residents.

Until October last year, about 8,300 babies were born to non-local mothers out of a total of 33,320 born in public hospitals.

A Hospital Authority spokesman said it will carefully monitor the use of maternity services by both locals and non-locals.

The authority does not rule out reinstating measures to ensure there are enough beds for local mothers.

In a fiercely competitive market, agents offer add-on services, such as cord blood storage and fung shui consultancy, to choose baby names.

One of the agents claimed on its website it can even make arrangements for women who have been blacklisted from giving birth here by the Immigration Department.

But the fee for the "special service" is 120,000 yuan.

Some also offer "luxurious one-stop service packages" costing from 200,000 yuan to 300,000 yuan. The "luxurious package" promises a suite in a private hospital and assistants to accompany the woman from prenatal checkup to her discharge from hospital.

The package also includes arrangements for the baby's vaccinations, a 10-day stay in a luxury hotel room with full sea view, health-care insurance, the baby's medical checkup after birth - and even baby formula.

Other agents also said they provide home-made meals for the mothers-to-be during their stay in Hong Kong.

Kwong Kwok-hay, deputy medical superintendent of the private Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, said the hospital will accept women regardless of their nationality.

"We serve them like any other locals as long as we have vacant beds for them and they are referred by our affiliated obstetricians," Kwong said.

About 30 percent of babies born at the hospital are to mothers who are non-locals.

Over the years, the influx of mainland women giving birth here has been blamed for the severe shortage of maternity beds for local women.

The number of babies born in Hong Kong to mainland parents has increased 24 percent from 10,567 in the first half of 2008 to 13,105 in the same period last year.

One of this year's crop of new year babies was the boy of a Fujian couple born at Hong Kong Baptist Hospital.

City expecting rush of mainland moms-to-be - The Standard