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There are 41 public hospitals and 11 private hospitals in Hong Kong. Public hospitals are run by the Hospital Authority (HA) whereas private hospitals are regulated by the Department of Health. Both agencies are subdivisions of the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau, one of Hong Kong’s ministries. Healthcare standards in Hong Kong are high, and adequate medical equipment is easily available.
In addition to public hospitals, the HA runs general and specialist out-patient clinics (GOPCs and SOPCs), a Chinese medicine service, and certain additional community care services.
Western and Chinese medicine are equally available in Hong Kong, no matter where doctors earn their degrees. However, expatriates should know that Western-trained doctors are likely to charge much more than doctors with a similar local qualification. If you have any doubt regarding prices, feel free to compare and do not hesitate to ask locals how much they pay for a similar service.
Public vs. Private (non-financial considerations)
For financial issues surrounding public and private healthcare in Hong Kong, see National Health Service for Expats in Hong Kong.
At a public establishment, you do not choose your doctor, and you might face long queues or waiting lists. In addition, the public healthcare system is just mainly designed to provide basic healthcare, e.g. hospitals, doctors and specialists, subsidised medications for eligible persons, etc. Consequently, certain non-basic services (e.g. dentistry) must be paid for privately. Dental emergencies can be addressed at public dental clinics, however. See Health Emergencies for Expats in Hong Kong
Language issues may also affect an expatriate’s decision to go public or private. It is much easier to find a healthcare provider who speaks your language in the private sector. English-speaking expats are not spared by language considerations, as Hong Kong is a multilingual jurisdiction.
General practitioners (GPs)
If you need to see a GP, you can go to a GOPC. These clinics provide subsidised services for eligible persons. See National Health Service for Expats in Hong Kong
GOPCs can deal with non-eligible persons, but the charges are strongly higher.
If you have a Hong Kong Identity C ard (HKID), you can avoid GOPC queues by booking an appointment through the Telephone Appointment Service. If you follow correctly the appointment booking steps, you can expect to see a GP within 24 hours.
A full list of GOPCs is available here.
However, GOPCs are aimed at the elderly, low-income individuals, and patients with chronic diseases. Alternatively, you might wish to see a private GP (family doctor).
You may find a private doctor here.
If you are an eligible person and wish to rely on public sector healthcare, subsidised specialist treatment is available at SOPCs. However, you must obtain a referral letter from a GP to attend a relevant SOPC.
Do not underestimate the procedure requirements if you need specialist treatment, as waiting times for non-urgent matters can be very long. If an emergency arises, you can go straightaway to an A&E department. See Health Emergencies for Expats in Hong Kong
Alternatively, you might wish to see a private specialist. Typically, a private specialist consultation costs HK$150-400 (US$ 20-50) whereas it costs HK$60-100 (US$ 8-12) at SOPCs.
Expats in Hong Kong should be aware that non-eligible pregnant women may face huge charges in public hospitals, especially if they have not gone through prenatal care.
It is the HA’s policy to prioritise eligible expectant mothers, and punitive charges have been introduced to deter non-eligible pregnant women. Specifically, the “obstetrics package” fee for non-eligible persons is HK$39,000 (US$5,000) if they have undergone a prenatal check-up and have a confirmed booking for delivery (service suspended from 12 May 2012). Otherwise, the fee is HK$90,000 (US$11,500).
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