Macau where the raids took place and the 16 were arrested. Photo: iStock

Macau’s Health Bureau has received a backlash from migrant groups after proposing a ninefold increase in the fee charged non-permanent residents who give birth in a public hospital.

The bureau proposed increasing the childbirth fee for foreign workers from the current 975 patacas to 8,775 patacas (from US$124 to $1,120) at the Conde S Januário Hospital, the only public hospital in the city, according to a government release on February 28.

For caesarean sections, the increase would be from 1,950 to 17,550 patacas.

For tourists, the bureau suggested that the hospital charge them around double the temporary-resident fee.

Expectant mothers holding Macau resident identity cards or wives of Macau residents who are not themselves residents would not be subject to the new charges.

The bureau said the suggestion was due to the relaxation of mainland China’s one-child policy in 2016, which prompted the city government to try to protect local residents’ benefits, as the low service fees at Conde S Januário Hospital attracted outsiders to give birth in Macau.

A total of 3,371 babies were born at Conde S Januário Hospital between 2015 and 2017, the Health Bureau revealed. Of this number, 20% were born to mothers with tourist status, while 8% were born to mothers with non-resident status.

However, the suggested fee increases angered the city’s migrant groups.

Eric Lestari, former president of an Indonesian migrant group, described the proposal as discriminatory against migrant workers and tourists in Macau. He said the increases would affect Filipino migrants more than Indonesian or Vietnamese workers in Macau, as many Filipino families reside in the region, Macau Daily Times reported.

Yosa Wariyanti, president of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, stressed that the proposal showed discrimination against foreign women working in Macau. She said she feared that the move would cause women to have unsafe deliveries, such as giving birth at their homes, if their families could not afford the hospital fees.