Healthcare in Hong Kong

The standard of healthcare in Hong Kong is widely regarded as excellent by international standards and teaching hospitals such as Queen Mary's on Hong Kong Island and Prince of Wales in Shatin have excellent reputations. Hong Kongers enjoy high life expectancy (ranked fifth in the world in 2010*), infant mortality is low (fifth lowest in the world in 2010*) and doctors and dentists in both public and private practice are generally Western-trained to a very high standard.

Staying healthy

Hong Kong is generally considered a fairly healthy place to live and no vaccinations are required to enter the country. However, vaccinations for Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, Diphtheria and Tuberculosis are normally considered a good idea if you are spending extended time in the country. Malaria and rabies are not prevalent in Hong Kong, but cases are present elsewhere in the region.

Hong Kong does have around 40-50 cases of Dengue fever annually. You can minimise the risk by careful use of mosquito repellents, but if you do get infected there is no cure. Other 'high profile' health issues are Avian flu - there have been documented outbreaks in Hong Kong and the Asia region since 1997 - and SARS, a pneumonia-like disease. Following the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003, public health campaigns have done a great deal to educate people on how to protect against the disease and manage the threat of another outbreak.

Another health issue is air pollution. Hong Kong does have controls on emissions, but pollution blows in from the big manufacturing areas of South China and is a noticeable part of life. Food and water can also come with some risks. Hong Kong's drinking water is safe to drink from the tap, but most people drink bottled water. Take care when buying meat and seafood, especially from local markets where hygiene can be poor. Local and Asian seafood in particular, can have high levels of contamination from heavy metals.

Doctors and hospitals

Your first priority on arrival will be to find a doctor for yourself and your family. Use personal recommendation and the internet to find a suitable doctor near to you with whom you can communicate easily. Be sure to find out what you should do out of surgery hours or in an emergency. On that note, you can rest assured that Hong Kong is a country where police, doctors and hospitals are always ready to help in an emergency situation.

There are 54 hospitals in Hong Kong offering three classes of medical treatment - primary (general practice), secondary and tertiary (treatment for long-term illnesses or rehabilitation). Of these, 41 are public hospitals run by the Hong Kong Hospital Authority (the HKHA also runs 48 specialist outpatient clinics and 74 general outpatient clinics).

Most public hospitals have A&E departments and generally cover all three types of care. These hospitals are subsidised, but to receive a subsidy you must have a Hong Kong identity card. Public hospitals also offer a private service charged at market rates (expect to pay around HK$100 for a specialist consultation). In some cases your doctor will refer you to a government hospital if you need a special test or treatment that is only available there. The general view is that medical standards in public hospitals are high, but they are run for maximum efficiency so personal service is not a priority. If you return for follow-up treatment, it's unlikely you will see the same doctor twice.

Hong Kong has 13 private hospitals partnered with the UK for international healthcare accreditation and they mostly offer primary and secondary medical services. Private hospital consultation fees do not include drugs, treatment, tests or procedures. You can pay for these by cheque, credit card or by presenting an accepted health insurance card. Private doctors generally have their own consulting clinics but use hospital facilities for surgeries and treatments. The majority of doctors are local Chinese but most have overseas qualifications.

Traditional Chinese medicine and alternative therapies are becoming more popular in Hong Kong and some are offered in public hospitals, for example acupuncture and acupressure. Some drugs found in traditional medicine, such as ephedra, are legal in Hong Kong but their use is banned in other parts of the world.

Most Western over-the-counter and prescription drugs are available in Hong Kong.

Did you know?

The first ever adult-to-adult live donor liver transplant was carried out in Hong Kong in 1993.

Useful links

Department of Health (Private hospitals): www.dh.gov.hk

Hospital Authority (Public hospitals): www.ha.org.hk

Dental Council of Hong Kong: www.dchk.org.hk

* The World Factbook, CIA.

 

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