What’s the best option for looking after your personal and family health in Hong Kong? After choosing a home and a school, you’ll want to find a trusted family doctor – preferably before you urgently need them! Thankfully, Hong Kong provides access to affordable universal healthcare via the city’s network of government hospitals and public health clinics. However, many will opt to supplement this with additional private health insurance. Here’s some basic information about both options to help you make the best choice for your family when it comes to healthcare in Hong Kong.
Public Healthcare: 4 Facts
- The HK government provides an excellent and highly affordable health service. Statistics back this up; as of 2020, life expectancy here is, according to some studies, the world’s highest.
- The city’s public doctors are all highly qualified, and government medical staff include all the specialist practice areas you’d expect, along with a quintessentially Hong Kong addition – TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners.
- Finding your preferred doctor is easy; log on to the Primary Care Directory (www.pcdirectory.gov.hk) and select your specialist. Antenatal and postnatal care, well women services and childhood vaccinations take place at 34 dedicated Maternal and Child Health Centres across the SAR. At your appointment, you’ll be asked to register with your Hong Kong ID and pay a small fee, usually by cash or Octopus card.
- In an emergency, you’ll be transferred by ambulance to the nearest public hospital. With around 17 of more than 40 public hospitals across Hong Kong providing A&E services, you’re never too far away from help. Care operates on a triage basis, and is charged at a flat rate of HK$180 per visit. Once assessed, if you’re admitted to hospital, you’ll be charged a $75 admission fee, then $120 per day, payable by cash or Octopus card.
Tip: A friend of EL recently broke her ankle hiking and was only given crutches from the hospital – not hugely practical for eight weeks in plaster. She discovered you can hire medical equipment from the Red Cross (redcross.org.hk) at really cheap rates; she got herself a decent wheelchair for just HK$120 a month.
Private Healthcare: 4 Facts
- The demand for public healthcare can translate to long waiting times, particularly for non-critical services, which is where private health insurance can prove invaluable.
- There are innumerable private healthcare practitioners in Hong Kong, and access to their services will depend on your individual insurance coverage. Some insurers will insist on using a pre-approved panel of physicians; others will allow patients free choice of doctor according to the policy’s limit. Opting to visit a private doctor will usually mean you can choose a specialist according to your own needs, with shorter waiting times than the public system.
- Before booking your appointment, check with your insurer to confirm coverage limits and payment methods – some policies offer pre-approved direct billing; others require payment upfront and then you reclaim costs later.
- All of HK’s dozen or so private hospitals are internationally accredited with excellent facilities. Many provide 24-hour outpatient services for urgent cases and can arrange transfer to a public hospital for A&E services if necessary. Always confirm the hospital’s billing process with your insurer, and check that any extras – medicines, private accommodation, out-of-hours surgery – are covered.
Check here for lots more useful information, including links to all the private and public hospitals in Hong Kong.
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This article first appeared in Expat Living’s annual CityGuide. Get your free copy here!