Quebec doctors say there’s been a rise in “maternity tourism” over the last year and they’re upset because some foreigners don’t pay their hospital bill.
Several Montreal hospitals have noticed an increase in the number of pregnant foreign women, predominantly from French-speaking countries, who travel to Canada to give birth, according to the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, any person born in Canada who isn’t a child of a diplomat becomes a citizen at birth.
Anecdotal figures from Sainte-Justine Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and Saint-Luc Hospital suggest more than 125 foreigners delivered babies in Montreal last year. Statistics obtained by The Canadian Press from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show that in 2005-2006, 273 babies were delivered in Quebec to foreign mothers, compared with 169 in the rest of the country. Ontario had the second-highest number of infants born to non-Canadian residents with 91.
As with any emergency service, salaried staff don’t lose out if a patient can’t pay, argued Gaétan Barrette of the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists. Each labour and delivery costs the health-care system between $5,000 and $7,000.
Doctors, however, are self-employed and lose about $400 each time a pregnant foreigner doesn’t pay. He’s calling on the Quebec government to pick up the tab.
In a recent radio interview, Citizenship and Immigration Canada Minister Jason Kenney said he’s asked his staff to check numbers before he decides whether to act.