Clinics and Doctors
Hong Kong residents can choose between the affordable, accessible health care offered by Department of Health-operated clinics, and the more expensive (but convenient and comfortable) care offered by private practitioners.
The chart below illustrates the overall structure of Hong Kong’s healthcare system:
Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR
Department of Health
Management of Public Health
Child Assessment Centres
Clinical Genetic Service Centres
Elderly Health Centres
Integrated Treatment Centres
Maternal and Child Health Centres
School Dental Clinics
Social Hygiene Clinics
Student Health Services Centres
Travel Health Centres
Women Health Centres
Management of Public Hospitals
General Outpatient Clinics
Special Outpatient Clinics
Primary Health Care
Private Chinese Practitioners
Public Health Clinics
The Department of Health operates general outpatient clinics to provide accessible and affordable primary medical and health care to the public. The department also operates specialist outpatient clinics, which provide consultation, treatment and investigations to patients referred by hospitals, government general outpatient clinics and private practitioners.
The Hospital Authority has a list of clinics, their locations and opening hours on its website.
There are many private clinics and doctors’ offices offering general and specialist services. Private practitioners provide services in all areas of Hong Kong and the New Territories.
Fees for a medical consultation with an English-speaking private practitioner generally range from HK$300 to HK$1100, and considerably more for a specialist consultation. In most cases, patients have to bear the extra cost for medicine, lab tests, x-rays and other treatments.
Education and training of medical professionals in Hong Kong are modeled after the system in the United Kingdom, where an MBBS medical degree is granted upon successful completion of a five-year study program. Graduates are eligible for a license to practice medicine after one year of internship. In the public sector, junior doctors are supervised by senior doctors. Junior doctors function similarly to interns in the US.
Doctors in the private sector display a similar range of skills and qualifications as in the public sector. While some doctors set up a private practice as soon as they’re licensed, others wait until they have gained more experience in the public sector before beginning a private practice.
Whether you opt for the convenience and comforts of a private hospital, or the undeniable value of a public hospital, you can expect excellent medical care in Hong Kong.
The government runs public hospitals throughout Hong Kong. The major government hospitals on Hong Kong Island include Queen Mary Hospital (affiliated with Hong Kong University) and Pamela Youde Eastern Nethersole Hospital. Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital are the major government hospitals in Kowloon. In the New Territories, Prince of Wales Hospital is affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Charges at public hospitals are heavily subsidized. Patients (Hong Kong Identity Card holders) in general wards are charged just HK$120 per day, which covers treatment, medicine, surgery, tests, accommodation and food. Some private rooms are available for higher fees.
A complete list of public hospitals can be found on the Hospital Authority’s website.
Admission to private hospitals requires a referral from an affiliated doctor. Patients are required to pay a deposit or submit a letter of guarantee from a qualified insurance company or an employer. Bills are to be settled at most private hospitals every three to five days, unless other arrangements have been made prior to admission. Charges for in-patient care at a private hospital range from HK$600 per day in a general ward (with three or more in a room) to HK$3,000 or more per day for a first-class private room. Other costs, including medicines, surgery, treatments, tests and doctors’ fees, are additional.
There are six private hospitals on Hong Kong Island, four in Kowloon and two in New Territories. Information and contact details about private hospitals in Hong Kong can be found on the Department of Health’s website.
Hospitals in Hong Kong provide exceptional maternity care and services.
In recent years, demand for hospital space for giving birth in hospitals in Hong Kong has become acute. The situation is most dire in public hospitals, which normally charge a very low fee (with the exception of non-eligible persons — those without Hong Kong Identity Cards). Prospective new parents should consult with their doctor early about booking a private hospital room or registering to give birth in a public hospital. All doctors are affiliated with one or several hospitals, and they will be able to help with securing a booking.
Prospective new parents should consult with their doctor early about booking a private hospital room or registering to give birth in a public hospital.
Women planning to give birth in a public hospital will need to register with the Hospital Authority first. As public hospitals in Hong Kong operate according to a catchment system, your designated public hospital will depend on your place of residence (check the Hospital Authority website).
Where you make your initial antenatal registration depends on which catchment area you fall into. Some hospitals require expectant mothers to register at the hospital; others handle registration at a Maternal and Child Health Centre (MCHC). Check the Family Health Service’s website for more information.
Patients who are eligible to give birth in a public hospital are entitled to free antenatal appointments through the MCHCs, or may pay for antenatal care with a private doctor. Going private for antenatal care is a popular choice among expecting parents who can’t afford (or don’t want to pay for) the frills of a private hospital, but who do want flexible appointment scheduling and a more personal approach to patient care.
Childhood immunizations up to age 5 are offered free of charge to eligible persons at the MCHCs. Visit the Family Health Service’s website for information about registering.
Most large companies in Hong Kong provide health insurance coverage for employees and their families. If your company does not, you can purchase local health insurance from a number of outside providers, but be prepared to pay high premiums.
A policy that reimburses 80 percent of costs for network or non-network doctors and hospitals can cost USD$5,000 or more in premiums per year for a family of three, and even more for maternity coverage. In most cases, there are limits to coverage for various types of treatment or surgeries.
Many local and international health insurance providers are based in Hong Kong, including insurance products from local banks, US-based Blue Cross and UK-based BUPA. Local providers may place age restrictions on policyholders, who may become ineligible for coverage once they reach the age of 59. Local insurance companies also have limits to medical coverage outside of Hong Kong. So if you plan to travel, you’ll need additional medical coverage in case of an accident or illness while overseas.
If you need to purchase health insurance, check the policy provisions carefully before you buy, and ask lots of questions.
Most local providers have yearly maximums for claims, and some may also increase premiums depending on the number of claims. If you need to purchase health insurance, the warning “buyer beware” is a good thing to remember. Check the policy provisions carefully before you buy, and ask lots of questions.
In addition to hospitals and healthcare clinics, pharmacies can commonly be found in large drugstores.
As in other parts of the world, drugstores in Hong Kong are like mini-convenience stores, offering a comprehensive range of personal health and beauty products and baby care products alongside pharmaceutical items.
Typically, if you need prescription medicine, your doctor or hospital will provide it during your consultation. It is only in rare cases, like when the medicine is out of stock, that they will write you a prescription and tell you to collect it at an outside pharmacy. Over-the-counter drugs can also be purchased at drugstore pharmacies. See Live > Shopping > Where to Buy > Personal Care Items and Medicines for more information.
In Case of Emergency
In case of emergency call 999. This number will give you emergency access to the police, fire services department or an ambulance.
Non-Chinese speaking expatriates should keep a card together with their identity card that includes emergency instructions written in both English and Chinese. Along with information about medications you are taking or allergies that you have, the card should also list whom to contact in case of emergency.
If you hire a domestic helper, give her explicit instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency at home. The YWCA/YMCA, St. John Ambulance Service and some private hospitals offer first-aid courses designed for domestic helpers in families with children.
Hong Kong has no private ambulance service. Ambulance services are provided by the government through the Hong Kong Fire Services Department and through St. John Ambulance Service (a non-profit organization).
Contact numbers for St. John Ambulance Service:
- Emergency Hotline — 1878 000
- Service Hotline — 2524 4888
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has placed automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public spaces such as in all aquatic venues (pools and beaches) and at around 250 other public areas. These venues, including parks, playgrounds, sports centers, tennis courts, football pitches and cultural spots, such as public libraries, civic centers and museums, have been fitted with the devices.
AEDs have been proven to save 50 percent more lives in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases. The AEDs can be operated by any trained personnel. Once the pads are placed on the victim, the device automatically gives instructions, checks heart rhythm and delivers a shock if necessary.
Public training courses, which take one day, are offered by the Hospital Authority’s Accident and Emergency Training Centre, Fire Services Department, St. John Ambulance, Auxiliary Medical Services and the Red Cross.