Six years ago today, the Richmond News reported its first “birth tourism” story, highlighting the seemingly high number of non-Canadian residents giving birth at Richmond Hospital.
That was in 2015, with the News telling how, according to the latest figures available for the previous year, “2014 was a record-smashing year for births by non-residents at the hospital, indicating that the facility may well have been “ground zero for birth tourism in the country.”
Over an eight-month period in 2014, just over one in ten babies – 160 – were delivered at the hospital from non-resident mothers. From 2004 to 2010 the hospital helped birth, on average, 18 new Canadians per year from non-resident mothers.
Over the years, the non-resident “baby boom” has drawn criticism from many hospital employees, Richmond residents and politicians.
And it appears as if the issue has grown year on year, with the latest figures for the 2019/20 financial year (to March last year) showing the number of non-resident births rising to almost one in four at the hospital.
A total of 507 babies were born in that period to non-resident mothers, accounting for 24 per cent of all births at the hospital for that time.
Back in 2015, when the News asked Diane Bissenden, director of population and family health for Vancouver Coastal Health at the time, if the hospital is encouraging non-resident births for monetary purposes, she replied that the hospital does not deny patients based on resident status.
At the time, the hospital asked non-residents to pay a $7,500 deposit for a regular birth and $15,000 for a C-section birth.
Last year, the News reported how former Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal was banging his head against a brick wall when it came to investigating the issue.
He admitted there wasn’t much he could do when it comes to businesses in the city linked to birth tourism, particularly if those companies have all their paperwork in place.
“The fact that they have a business licence means they’re not breaking the law,” said Johal at the time. “I don’t think the city can do much about that. And even the provincial government couldn’t do much about that beyond discouraging this practice.”
With files from Graeme Wood