BUPA GLOBAL

Hong Kong health guide

Hong Kong is a city internationally recognised as having a high standard of healthcare. It has the eighth highest life expectancy at birth in the world, and the sixth lowest infant death rate, which is used as an indicator of how good healthcare is in a country.

The healthcare services available in Hong Kong are either public (government-owned) or private. Both offer high standards of medical care, but may differ in the services offered, service levels (for example, waiting times) and facilities.

Expatriates living in Hong Kong use both public and private healthcare facilities. Expatriates are entitled to government healthcare subsidies but you will need to apply for a Hong Kong Government ID card.

Before you go

Vaccinations

You may need vaccinations or other preventive medicines before you leave for Hong Kong, particularly if you are also visiting other countries in the region. Your doctor will advise you on which vaccinations you need. He or she will ask you about your general health, what vaccinations you have had in the past, which countries and regions you will be visiting and what activities you have planned. See your doctor at least four to six weeks before you travel to ensure that there is time for your vaccinations to take effect.

Required vaccinations 

No vaccinations are required for travel to Hong Kong.

Recommended vaccinations 

It is important to check that any boosters or routine vaccinations are up to date before you travel. This may include the combined DTP vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis – also known as whooping cough), measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and polio.

Communicable diseases 

Outbreaks of scarlet fever have been reported in Hong Kong. This is a bacterial infection that mainly affects children. There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent scarlet fever. It is therefore important to take strict food, water and personal hygiene precautions.

There are also outbreaks of dengue fever reported in Hong Kong, a viral illness transmitted by mosquito bites. There are no vaccines or medicines to prevent dengue fever. Try to take measures to prevent mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent on exposed skin, wearing long sleeves and trousers, and ensuring there are secure screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Malaria is not found in Hong Kong, so you do not need to take any preventive medicines. However, talk to your doctor about malaria prevention if you are planning to travel to other countries in the region.

Further information: 

Fit for Travel website

Updates on disease outbreaks 

Please note, vaccination recommendations are based on the information available at the time of publication. For up to date advice on disease outbreaks in Hong Kong, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and view the latest travel notices

Medical records

Take copies of your medical records with you to Hong Kong. You can ask for either print or electronic copies from your doctor before you go. Having your records with you will ensure that if you need to see a doctor, he or she will have access to your medical history, including details of any medical conditions, tests, treatments and vaccinations.

Prescription medicines

If your prescription medicines do not contain any controlled substances, you can take a reasonable supply for your personal use (as much as you will use for the duration of your stay, for example) without seeking prior approval from the authorities.

If you plan to take prescription medicines containing controlled substances (such as codeine, diazepam or morphine) with you to Hong Kong, you will need to apply for authorisation from the Department of Health before you travel.

You will also need to take supporting documents to prove that the medicines are for your personal use, for example a letter from your doctor and/or a copy of the prescription.

Further details are available on the Customs and Excise Department website

Private medical insurance

Healthcare costs in Hong Kong are very high compared with other countries around the world. Private medical insurance is not mandatory for expatriates, but many employers provide private medical insurance for their employees while they are abroad. Expatriates who do not have private medical insurance will have to self-pay if they use public or private healthcare services.

Medical care

Primary care

In Hong Kong 70 percent of primary care is provided through private general practitioners (GPs) based in GP practices and hospital outpatient clinics. The rest is through public services run by the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health. Doctors providing primary care in the community include GPs and specialists in family medicine. Most GPs offer a walk-in service, so you do not have to make an appointment.

Unlike in other countries, you do not have to register with just one GP, you are able to visit different GPs. However, it is recommended that you try to stick with the same GP so that he or she is familiar with your medical history.

Bupa Global’s Healthline service can help Bupa Global members find a GP.
Alternatively, you can find a GP through personal recommendation or via internet and telephone directories.

The Department of Health has a directory of primary care providers

Specialist care

To see a specialist at a public hospital in Hong Kong, you will need a GP to refer you. To see a specialist in a private clinic or hospital, a GP referral is not essential. However some private medical insurers will only cover specialist care if you are referred by a GP. There are advantages to having a GP referral. Your GP will be able to recommend a specialist for your condition, as well as provide the specialist with relevant information about your medical history, including details of previous test results and treatments.

Bupa Global’s Healthline service can assist Bupa Global members in finding a suitable specialist.

Alternatively, you can find a specialist by talking to your GP, through personal recommendation or via ‘specialist directories’ available on most hospital websites.

Use Bupa Global's facilities finder to find details of Hong Kong hospital websites.

Hospitals

There are 41 public hospitals in Hong Kong (run by the Hospital Authority). These hospitals provide inpatient and specialist outpatient services, and 16 of the public hospitals have 24-hour accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

Hong Kong has 13 private hospitals. Each has inpatient facilities, outpatient clinics (offering specialist and GP consultations), diagnostic services and some have emergency (A&E) departments or 24-hour outpatient departments.

Bupa Global’s Healthline service can assist Bupa Global members in finding a quality assured hospital or clinic.

Emergency care

If you have a life-threatening emergency, dial 999. This is the telephone number for the Government emergency ambulance service, which will take you to the nearest public hospital with an A&E department.

You do not need to have an appointment to get treatment at an A&E department. You can either walk in or arrive by ambulance. When you first arrive, you will be assessed. If you have a serious medical problem, you will be seen straight away, otherwise you may have to wait. It is not uncommon for waiting times in public A&E departments to exceed several hours. Therefore, if you have a minor medical problem, you may choose to go to a 24-hour outpatient department in a private hospital.

Bupa Global’s Healthline service can help Bupa Global members to find a suitable emergency hospital or clinic.

Second opinion service

All Bupa Global members have free access to a second medical opinion service from Advance Medical. A leading expert in the relevant field will thoroughly review your diagnosis and treatment plan.

This service is designed to help you understand:

  • what your diagnosis means
  • that your diagnosis is correct
  • that the proposed treatment is correct
  • further available information about your condition
  • alternative treatments that may be better for you

Find out more about the second medical opinion service.

Resources

Resources

World factbook: east and southeast Asia, Hong Kong. Central Intelligence Agency, last accessed 5 July 2011

Right of abode in HKSAR – verification of eligibility for permanent identity card. Immigration Department the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, last accessed 17 June 2010

Fees and charges. Hospital Authority, last accessed 2010

Hong Kong (Asia). Fit for Travel, last accessed 21 July 2011

Hong Kong. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, last accessed 28 June 2011

Pharmaceutical products and medicines. Customs and Excise Department, last accessed 3 June 2010

Dangerous drugs. Customs and Excise Department, last accessed 15 April 2010

Our partner for better health. Food and Health Bureau (pdf 2.6MB), last accessed December 2010

Iliffe S, Woo J, Lam C, et al. Primary care in Hong Kong: a lesson about competition. Br J Gen Pract 2010; 60(571):142–3. doi: 10.3399/bjgp10X483373

Specialist out-patient clinics. Hospital Authority, last accessed 22 July 2011

Accident & emergency (A&E). Hospital Authority, last accessed 22 July 2011

Health facts of Hong Kong 2011 edition. Department of Health (pdf - 131kb), last accessed 22 July 2011

Personal communication, Lu D, 8 August 2011

Ong YS, Tsang YL, Ho YH, et al. Nurses treating patients in the emergency department? A patient survey. Hong Kong Journal of Emergency Medicine (pdf - 151kb) 2007; 14(1):10–15.

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