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Healthcare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a good healthcare system, in both the public and private sectors.

Public healthcare

Fees in the public sector are significantly lower than in the private sector. The overall level of care that you can expect is still very high, but it may take longer to get an appointment than if you go private.

If you want to visit an outpatient clinic, you must make an appointment by telephone first. If they don’t have space they will try to direct you to another one nearby. You should be able to get an appointment within 24 hours from your call.

For urgent matters go to the emergency ward at the hospital nearest you. You can go for any reason, but your case will be treated according to its level of importance and the number of people waiting. If your case isn’t considered to be high priority, you can end up waiting for hours.

The standard consultation fee for a single check-up is 180 HKD.

Children over the age of 11 must have a Hong Kong ID card and be legally registered in order to qualify for such services.

Children under 11 will be able to get medical treatment as long as their parents can prove residency.

Non-residents stand to pay a significant amount more for public healthcare and might as well consider going private. For example, a trip to the emergency ward will jump from 180 HKD to more than 1000 HKD.

Private healthcare

Private healthcare can often be confusing, as there are so many different providers to choose from, each offering services of varying quality. Furthermore, private healthcare providers are not always transparent in the prices that they offer, and you might not be able to tell what you are paying for until you receive the bill.

In the private system making an appointment can be faster but some doctors don’t have any free time slots for last-minute urgent cases. In addition private doctors don’t usually work at night, on public holidays, Sundays or during lunchtimes.

Private healthcare insurance is very popular in Hong Kong, but unlike elsewhere — such as the US — it is not a necessity. If you have come over with an international company, the chances are that your employer will provide this.

A fairly common thing for Hong Kongers is to have an annual full body-health check-up. Most clinics, both public and private, can arrange this.

A general check-up with a private practitioner starts at 300 HKD, but can cost as much as 1,000 HKD if you go for one that is specialised in healthcare for expats.

Remember that health insurance may not cover every procedure and usually has a cap on the amount that can be claimed back — so it pays to shop around.

Chinese medicine

Belief in the power of traditional Chinese medicine is widespread throughout Hong Kong.

Traditional Chinese pharmacies are easily recognisable by the intriguing glass jars that contain all manner of medicinal ingredients: cartilage and skin from various sea creatures, preserved leeches, dried insects, fungi and other curios.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine often do not have degrees in the subject; their knowledge is passed down from generation to generation within families (although you can now do a degree in Traditional Medicine at the University of Hong Kong).

In the past, practitioners would slowly cook medicinal herbs over a fire in order to concoct some aromatic brew. In the modern world, though, many traditional Chinese cures come in pill form.

Along with eating certain types of herbs, the patient is often advised to abstain from eating some things during treatment. This varies depending on the cure that is being prescribed, but might typically be eggs or red meat.

A particular school of Chinese medicine that is becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong is that of qigong. Qigong integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused attention. Its practitioners use a combination of massage and chiropody to cure various illnesses, including orthopaedic problems. It is sometimes, though not always, practiced alongside herbal medicine.

Another school of Chinese medicine — tieda — is much more focused on chiropody and massage, and less on the breathing side of things. Practitioners of tieda may also apply hot poultices of herbs to painful areas of the body.

Acupuncture and acupressure are also a popular part of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture involves penetrating the skin with needles. Acupressure does not puncture the skin but instead applies pressure to certain areas of the body.

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