Anecdota

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Passport babies: Secrets behind birth tourism – The Fifth Estate


[President Donald Trump]
Birth tourism, big business. Man: We don’t like it. I don’t think anyone in
Canada particularly likes it. It is unfortunate, nurses
are not able to speak out. Most of them, they get the
Canadian passport and then they leave the country. [Erica] Is that a
motivating factor for you? That you get paid more
than the public system? It is like a dessert. [Speaking alternate language] You cut power. Stop– -Just tell me how–
-I call the police now. [♪♪] [♪♪] I have lived in this particular
neighbourhood for 30 years. When it started, I started
to look for clues, and so I started to see
Pamper boxes overflowing in the recycling boxes. [Erica] Kerry Starchuk
lives in Richmond, BC, just outside Vancouver. She experienced firsthand a
growing phenomenon when she dropped by a new
neighbour’s house with cookies. Said, “I hope you
enjoy your new house.” “Come over any time
that you need help.” And he took my cookies and then
I looked at the back door and there was two carriers, baby
carriers, and pregnant women. I started to see
what was happening. [Erica] Across Canada in 2018,
nearly 5,000 babies were born to non-residents. That’s up about 15%
from the year before, and the numbers keep climbing. Many of those babies are to
women who spend upwards of $30,000 to fly in
from other countries, give birth, and fly home. Their babies, born
on Canadian soil, are automatically
Canadian citizens– legal, but as controversial as
its name, birth tourism. So these are birth tourism
houses just in your community? Yes, in Richmond. That’s a long list. That is. [Erica] Birth houses, where
women stay when they arrive. But when a Mandarin speaking
colleague and I knock on a few doors of those supposed
houses listed online… There’s someone inside. You can hear them. [Erica] ..people who do answer
say they have no idea why their homes are on the websites. -You make her give–
-We don’t do that business. [Erica] There’s no national
tracking of where women are coming from. But mostly, they deliver at
a few hospitals in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Richmond Hospital is
considered “ground zero”. Last year, nearly one- quarter of all births here, more than 450 babies, were born to non-residents. We learn the vast majority of
those new moms come from China. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] Online,
we find websites, promoting birth
tourism in Canada, touting high-tech
medical facilities, top-rated doctors. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] But we discover there’s
a multi-million dollar shadow industry in pockets of Canada
that healthcare insiders say is stressing the system. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] To learn more
about what’s going on, a producer poses
as a pregnant mom, dials up birth
tourism companies. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] Easier to access
a Canadian university, and no
international tuition fees. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] At around
six months pregnant, we’re told, women should
leave China for Canada. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] But it’s pricey. Paying the company,
flights, accommodation, medical fees, it can range
from $20,000 to $70,000. [Speaking alternate language] [Erica] Why have you become one
of the go-to doctors for this? Language. I’m a native Mandarin speaker. [Erica] Why do you do it? Because, when the
patients are here, they need medical services. You feel obliged. [Erica] When we take a closer
look at the websites for birth tourism, we learn they mention
several Canadian doctors, including Dr. Xin-Yong Wang. Sometimes they say they
want to get an epidural, because they don’t have
access to epidural in China, and some of them say they want a
third baby and that then it was not allowed in China. [Erica] Not many of them
say, “We’re just here for “the passport”? That’s right. I rarely hear that,
if at all, yeah. But, obviously, you wonder if
that would be a very common reason. [Erica] We wonder, with so many
of these deliveries at Richmond Hospital, what’s the impact? But the hospital
sends staff a warning, directing employees not
to speak to the media. We’ve talked to nurses
but they are afraid to speak on camera. Why do you think that is? It is unfortunate nurses
are not able to speak up. [Erica] Despite the
risk of discipline, four current and two retired
nurses speak to us about their concern. We agree not to identify them. ..says one nurse. Another tells us… I just want to read you
something that one of your members has said to us. “Our normal scheduled
or add-on C-sections “lie there all day and then we
send them home “and we say come back
to them tomorrow. “A private pay never goes home. “She gets her c-section that
day. “She will be fit in somewhere
because nobody wants to lose “that money.” That’s what she told us. What do you think
when you hear that? I think that’s really sad. I think it’s heart-wrenching for
the nurse who has been working with that mom all day. [Erica] Another
nurse tells us… I think that, you know, adding
additional patients into a healthcare system that
isn’t staffed appropriately, that isn’t funded appropriately,
is causing strain. There is great risk when
they’re stretching resources. We know if there’s
not enough nurses, nurses to patients, that
things can get overlooked. What I hear from nurses is that
they’ve raised these issues and they really just feel
that nobody is listening. [Erica] Nurses say that they
have seen the care of private pay patients prioritized
at Richmond Hospital. For my own patients,
I can definitely say, it’s, ah, definitely no. [Erica] They’re not prioritized? They’re not. If anything, I think that we
try our best to make sure the community, the Richmond
residents receive adequate care first. [Erica] Non-residents coming to
Richmond Hospital to give birth pay a deposit, $10,000
for a vaginal delivery, $16,000 if it’s a caesarean. On top of that, they
pay doctors’ fees. We learned those fees can be
three or four times higher than what doctors charge the
public healthcare system. But there’s really no limit. May I ask, what
is the fee you charge? I think I’ll keep that– yeah. [Erica] Is that a
motivating factor for you, that you get paid more
than the public system? It’s like a dessert– occasional
patients like this is fine, and it’s
pretty financially rewarding, but then, because they are a
small percentage of our overall income. [Erica] Figures we obtain
from the health authority show, since 2014, two doctors at
Richmond Hospital have delivered hundreds of babies
to non-residents, potentially earning hundreds of
thousands of dollars each year on top of what they
bill the public system. But for some doctors, the
situation is plagued with issues. What is the experience
like– to collect money directly from patients? We hate doing that. We get put in this corner that
you have to go and talk to them. There’s a bill that’s
expected to be paid. [Erica] Dr. Mudaffer al-Mudaffer
works at Royal Columbian Hospital, also on the
outskirts of Vancouver. He gets called in to treat
newborns of non-residents when they need
unexpected intensive care. Sometimes they only pay
partial or none at all. Most of them, they get
the Canadian passport, and then they leave the country. [Erica] It’s up to individual
doctors to make sure they get paid by birth tourists,
but al-Mudaffer estimates, for him, that only
happens about 30% of the time. Says other doctors
are affected, too. What people are not
prepared for is early labour. Any lady can go 12
weeks early, 16 weeks early. The baby is going to require
intensive care admission, and that’s when you
see, wow, this is– like, do they know
what’s ahead of them? Like, health authorities charge
non-residents of Canada $10,000 per night. Have you had to go to
the parents of a sick baby, where the bill is
mounting day after day, and say to them, “You’re
going to face a massive bill”? Initially they say, “Oh, it’s
a Canadian baby, doctor.” “The baby is Canadian, so
it should be for free.” They can’t just come,
spend time in intensive care, take the passport
and then off you go, without paying. So that’s where
it becomes unfair. You know, the country
that provided you with care, with everything, at least
you should do your part. [Erica] Richmond Hospital is
owed over $2 million due to unpaid bills since 2017. Other hospitals
are out money, too. But there is no clear picture
of just how much across the country. It affects the health system. We need equipment. We need to hire staff. So, we need the budget. But the budget is going
somewhere else as well. So, it really affects the
integrity of the health system and the fairness of the
distribution of the resources. Well, we don’t like it. I don’t think anyone in
Canada particularly likes it. I think people in Canada don’t
like the idea that there seems to be private systems put
in place that feels like are taking advantage
of us in some ways. We’ve heard about unpaid
bills in the tens of thousands, in the hundreds of thousands. What are you doing to
ensure those bills get paid? If any bill is unpaid,
I’m concerned about that, because that’s money that we
could and should be spending on something else or saving
the healthcare system. So of course we are
concerned about it. Unfortunately, I’m not in a
position to address people coming to this country. The only thing we can do is do
what healthcare workers are obliged to do. Which is to provide care when
people come to the hospital and need care. [Erica] He doesn’t like it, but
tells us BC is doing a better job of getting money back. The Fifth Estate
wanted to know specifics. That information
is never shared. Some Canadian hospitals
have taken steps to limit non-resident births, saying their priority is to
serve people living in their communities. The health authority that
runs Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health,
declines repeated requests for interviews. It e-mails a statement
instead, saying, the health authority “will never
deny care based on ability to “pay or where a
patient is from.” Adding, “we do expect
to be compensated”. [Dog barking] [Erica] When we come
back, things heat up, as we keep digging. [Speaking alternate language] This is not a birth house. It’s wrong. [Erica] And we meet up
with a birth tourist. What made you want to come
here to have your baby? [♪♪] [♪♪] [Erica] We’re investigating
the shadow industry behind birth tourism, women who pay agencies
to help them give birth in Canada. Their babies get a Canadian
passport and all the advantages of citizenship. Your baby will be Canadian. How do you feel about that? [Speaking alternative language] [Erica] While
hitting the pavement, we run into
Cathy Xi, newly arrived to give birth to
her third child. [Speaking alternative language] [interpreter] Mmm, okay. What do you
say to some people who think it’s not fair
that women can come and have a baby and then all of a
sudden the baby’s Canadian? Some people say it’s
skipping the line. [Speaking alternative language] [Erica] Cathy
comes from Shandong, on China’s east coast. Tells us giving birth here
will cost at least $55,000 Canadian. [Speaking alternative language] [President Donald Trump]
Birth tourism, big business. Where pregnant mothers travel to
America to make their children instant American citizens. [Erica] President Trump
can’t ban birthright citizenship, it’s part of
the American Constitution. But authorities in the US are
starting to crack down on the industry around it. Federal agents raided
20 birth hotels in southern California. 19 people were
charged last year. Court documents allege a
multi-million dollar underground industry where women
are coached to lie at the border, carry large
sums of cash… [Speaking alternative language] [Erica] On the phone with
our undercover producer, companies confirm
Canada is now a more appealing destination. [Speaking alternative language] [Erica] Unlike in the States,
Canadian authorities don’t appear
to be investigating a legal but
secretive industry. We discover an account on one
of China’s most popular social media platforms, using
Dr Wang’s name to attract expectant mothers. This is really scary. It’s so easy for people to use
that information for their own personal gain. [Erica] After we tell Wang,
he sends a legal letter asking the company to pull
down the account. What does this fake account
make you think about the birth tourism industry? I think there are people who are
trying to make a financial gain from the situation. [Erica] We learn the company
that appears to be impersonating Wang
has an office in Richmond. This is the place. The company’s website
says it provides services to birth tourists. But the people inside claim
they know nothing about that. They ask us to leave. [Indistinct conversation] Why won’t you tell us what
you’re doing with the company? [Erica] When we check out one
of the homes the company listed online as a birth house… [Speaking alternative language] This is not a birth house. It’s wrong. [Erica] We meet a
man who lives there. He’s listed as a director of the
company that kicked us out, but denies he has any
connection to birth tourism. Wrong, wrong,
wrong advice… You cut power. -Stop.
-Just tell me– I call police now. I think it’s something that the
provincial government or the federal government can do. There must be something they
can do at least to regulate things better. You know people will hear
you say that and think, “Hmm, really, does he not
want to be doing this?” Because you’re
making a lot of money. Um…like I said, for
our overall income, it’s not a
life-changing percentage. I agree with people’s
frustration. One of the frustrations I’ve had
is that there have been federal politicians– of both
political parties in Canada, Conservative and Liberals
on the government side, who raised and have tried
to make this a big issue. While they complain about it and
they point at the health care system sometimes,
haven’t taken any action. Mr. Speaker, I would like to
present a petition on behalf of nearly 9,000 Canadians,
regarding… [Erica] In 2016, the
Conservatives wanted to make changes to citizenship laws… This petition asks the
government to introduce legislation that requires
at least one parent to have Canadian citizenship or resident
status before granting their child citizenship. [Erica] The Liberals
petitioned two years later… Birth tourism exploits our
generous public health care and social security systems and
violates Canadians’ sense of fairness. [Erica] More recently,
the Conservatives called for an end to automatic citizenship
for people born here, then dropped it during the
lead up to the 2019 election. Canada is one of only about
30 countries in the world that grants birthright citizenship. The Fifth Estate requested
an interview with the Federal Minister of Immigration
appointed in November. Our request was declined. In a statement, the Ministry
said while… So it wants more research. Why are we looking at numbers,
what are they going to look for? Are they gonna
wait till it’s 8000? 80,000? What’s the magic number? It’s an issue. I did write letters to different
politicians over the past let’s say…seven years. What you get is
electronic auto-reply, “We’ll write back to you,”
and then nobody writes back. [Erica] Cathy’s baby,
was due last month. She told us she is
headed back to China shortly. [♪♪] [♪♪]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *