Born and raised Richmondite Richard Belleza is having his second child, a boy, this September. His wife Kelly plans on delivering at Richmond Hospital, but neither are holding their breath based on the experience they had two years ago with daughter MacKenzie.
That’s because the Bellezas count themselves as one of the parents who has been bumped from a busy maternity ward that, on some days, finds itself packed to the gunnels, partly due to its popularity with foreign nationals.
“Obviously we want to have him in Richmond . . . We’re stressed out of our minds. It is our second kid. I mean, we have some experience, but you never know what you’re going to get,” said Richard, who questions the practice of birth tourism and the strain it puts on taxpaying citizens.
According to Vancouver Coastal Health, the Bellezas are just one of 14 couples who were bumped due to the ward being full in the past 18 months, a time period in which the hospital set records for births to foreign mothers, largely due to birth tourism companies facilitating the process.
In the hospital’s financial year of 2014/15, in which MacKenzie was born, the hospital birthed 2,185 new Canadians, 339 of whom were to foreign nationals — representing an all-time high, to date. Between 2004 and 2010 there were 18 non-resident births per year in Richmond, on average. Last financial year, nearly one in six births were to mothers of foreign nationality.
Richard, a financial advisor, can’t be certain his baby had to be born elsewhere due to the popularity of birth tourism, but he crunched the numbers.
“I’m a numbers person and you don’t want to apply any prejudice or any judgement in this situation, but when you look at the numbers . . . When you have 15 beds, on average two to three of those beds are going to go to non-residents. So, by that math simply, not having any space, there’s a good chance at least one of those beds was occupied by someone who didn’t have permanent residency or citizenship,” said Richard.
“It’s a little concerning as a taxpayer that you don’t get to use the resources in your own city.
“Ultimately, everyone here is an immigrant but are there people that should have priority in the hospitals? Yes,” he said.
Richard said Kelly’s water broke at around midnight on July 31, 2014. After spending four hours in the hospital waiting for a bed, they were told by staff there was no bed for Kelly. At 6 a.m. staff said the couple needed to go to Lions Gate Hospital on the North Shore.
“They didn’t offer an ambulance or anything like that. It was just, ‘You have to go to Lions Gate,’” said Richard, who found levity in the fact he made good time in traffic.
Richard and Kelly, who is employed in the field of occupational health and safety own a townhouse near Steveston.
“We’ve been long ingrained in the community,” said Richard.
He told the Richmond News, the issue of the hospital making money off foreign mothers is “a more systemic problem.”
“I’m a business person. I understand the realities. It makes financial sense to take someone who helps your bottom line. But not at the expense of other people.”
Last month a petition to Parliament was penned to end jus soli citizenship rights, which is the reason many believe foreigners are coming to the hospital to give birth.