Is Hong Kong healthcare reliable?

Question: What about health care in Hong Kong? I understand the hospitals are of a high standard, but are the emergency service of a similar high standard if a person is involved in an accident or some other acute problem?

Mr B replies: For emergency services (police, hospital, doctor, etc), I think they are of a similar standard to a European city. They are run independently from the mainland.

A reader adds: Emergency services are fine I think, if by that you mean fire fighting, or ambulances coming to traffic accidents.

Mr Tall adds: Health care in Hong Kong is, at least in my opinion, quite good. There are both public and private systems. For day-to-day complaints, most expatriates go to private GPs, whose costs may be covered by your employer-provided health plan (it's important to check this carefully when being offered any job package in Hong Kong, as such health plans vary tremendously in amount of coverage, restrictions on doctors, etc.) For serious complaints, surgeries, childbirth, etc., some expats use the public hospitals, some don't. Again, this often depends on what's covered in your health plan, where the best specialists are available (many are in fact in the public teaching hospitals) and so on.

One note on costs here: you will pay a very large premium on your health care costs if you insist on being treated by a doctor who is a westerner. In my experience, a western doctor is likely to charge double or even triple a local doctor with similar qualifications. Note that I'm talking here about a doctor who's an actual expatriate, not a western-trained doctor. Many, many Hong Kong Chinese doctors have taken their degrees from universities in the UK, US, and other western countries, so finding one who's western-trained is easy.

Over the years, the Talls have been treated exclusively by Hong Kong Chinese doctors, myself included, and I've got few complaints. I've even had a couple of odd, if not all that serious, afflictions, one of which required fairly complicated diagnosis (i.e. a CAT scan) and treatment (i.e. surgery) and it all went very well. Baby Tall was born in a private hospital, but one not often used by expatriates (St Teresa's), and was hospitalized there once with bronchitis as well: both times the care and professionalism were of a high standard.

One thing to look out for in Hong Kong is the overprescription of antibiotics for minor colds and other such ailments. My impression is that this is a declining problem, but it certainly still exists, especially among some doctors in the housing estates who are competing hard for patients, many of whom demand 'quick fixes', i.e. the most powerful drugs available, so that they 'get their money's worth'.