Giving birth in Hong Kong – private or public hospital?

The longer I live in Hong Kong the more I realise what a strange place it is.  People in Hong Kong adore brands and everything that claims to be Italian or French and are willing to spend shitloads of money on those products.

And, everything that claims to be “private” instead of “public” is better. Always! At least so people think. And giving birth is no exception. Or is it?

As Hong Kong is a competitive place, you better make sure to register with a hospital months before the expected delivery, otherwise there won’t be any beds.

The most important question you need to decide in advance: public or private hospital.

Everyone who can afford it goes for a private hospital.

But quite honestly – I  just don’t see the point.

Maybe that’s due to the fact that I’m from “socialist” Europe. A country with high taxes but very good public services (unless you live in the UK and have to deal with NHS, but that’s a different issue).

Giving birth in a private hospital in Hong Kong will cost you anywhere between HKD 30,000 and HKD 100,000 (that’s USD 3,800 to USD 13,000). If you go to a public hospital, it’s just a few hundred HKD (below USD 100).

Now, that’s quite a big difference. So it better be justified. So what is the difference exactly between a public and a private hospital?

I asked many friends in Hong Kong who have children. And I always hear the same: Private Hospitals are better, their staff is better, it’s nicer to be there, the nurses are friendlier, etc.

I’m sure private hospitals treat you like a client, hence they’ll be a lot friendlier to you. After all, you pay. But to be honest – does it matter? Isn’t the reason why people go to a hospital for giving birth (and not at home like it used to be the norm) that doctors can take care of you if complications arise?

My colleague’s wife gave birth to a baby boy one and a half years ago. During the checkup a few weeks before the planned delivery date they discovered complications. The baby just wasn’t in the right position.  Now what did the (private) doctor say?

He told them: You need to go to a public hospital. It’s too complicated and too risky, I won’t do it!

Well, so much to private hospitals being better in Hong Kong. It seems they just take your money and if shit really hits the fan, they ship you over to a public hospital to let them take care of the mess.

But that defies the logic of going to a hospital for giving birth in the first place. After all, you give birth in a hospital so doctors are there if you need them.

And still, people keep on telling me: Private is better. I don’t get it. It’s illogical.

Having said that, I also want to emphasise the following: Pregnancy checkups in a public health centre in Hong Kong are a JOKE! All they do is to measure your (or your girlfriends/wife’s) tummy. There are no ultra sound machines in public health centres (naturally, public hospitals have the equipment).

I don’t understand why Hong Kong’s government doesn’t invest part of their massive surplus in a few ultra sound machines. My feeling is, they don’t want to piss off their rich private doctor buddies.

So to sum it up. If you’re ever  in the situation of giving birth in Hong Kong keep in mind:

1. For checkup go to a private clinic. They have ultrasound. But since the public check up is for free, you might as well do both.

2. For the delivery, save your money and go to a public hospital. The doctors there are at least as good as the ones in a private hospital. Granted, in a public hospital chances are high  you won’t be treated like royalty. But with the money you save, you can have weeks of holidays and spoil yourself like never before…..

I’m just thinking about staring a private hospital with French and Italian doctors. I’m sure it’s good business. Oh, did I just say that out loud?

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About Basti

I've been living and working for ten years in Greater China (Mainland China, Hong Kong). I'm working in the field of Product Design / Product Consulting and Manufacturing for accessories and wearable devices. My passions are travelling (especially China and Asia) and I used to ride a motorbike. Now, with two children, my hobbies switched to changing diapers, cleaning and feeding babies.

4 responses to “Giving birth in Hong Kong – private or public hospital?”

  1. Roch says :

    Suggest to get your facts right! I gave birth at Queen Mary (public hospital) and the check ups are fine. Ultrasounds are included but they keep them to a minimum (ideally two; three if the mother pushes for the extra ultrasound) as ultrasounds aren’t necessarily good for the baby –> another thing for you to research!

    The public hospitals are fine if one is not a princess about giving birth or being in a ward with others. There are disadvantages e.g. stem cells cannot be collected; the placenta cannot be taken home (currently people are fighting this), wards can be noisy& therefore the lack of visiting times are a godsend (as mums need their rest); food isn’t great and often food gets forgotten, etc, but there are advantages e.g. cost HKD350; the public hospitals encourage natural births and breast feeding (from all the research I’ve done, both definitely need to be encouraged, worldwide); birthing ball classes available, etc.

    At the end of the day we all have a choice. Research is key.

    • Basti says :

      I suggest to get your facts right! While the public hospitals are state-of-the-art (my wife gave birth at Prince of Wales and it’s really a fine hospital), the local clinics are a joke and a shame for a rich city like Hong Kong. Depending on where you live, the checkups aren’t conducted in the hospital where you give birth but in local clinics. In our case my wife was told to go to the local clinic in Tai Po (not the hospital!) All they did was measure my wife’s belly and measure her blood pressure, that’s it. She could’ve easily done that herself. Given Hong Kong’s massive surplus I don’t understand why they invest in improving health care facilities. Or maybe that’s done but limited to HK island, something for you to research.

      The cost in a public hospital for giving birth is HKD 100 per day plus admittance fee of HKD 50 if you’re eligible (i.e. a resident). In our case it was only HKD 250 as they released my wife after one night.

  2. Andy says :

    I suggest to get your facts right! I got four and half years girl and nine months old boy. Both my kids were born in Kong Wah hospital yau ma tei. Who said to you pre checking and pre following is a joke before the delivery? surely you are missinformed or didn’t check your facts right. let you know after the first follow up my wife got first trimesters down syndrom check and second trimesters again , glucose test, ultra sound twice, blood test, sugar test etc. At least 7 to 8 times thoroughly checked up before the delivery. Wheather my wife was healthy and fine even doctor ask us to consult with dietitian if needed any but we declined…..everything was almost free of cost except few hundered bucks for administration fee. So what else do we need rather than this in Government hospital? Royal princess birth palace in Matilda hospital? sorry too expensive mate. Ordinary citizen cannot afford. Although i agree with you in some points for example we had given a opportunity to do ultrasound twice but in some cases they don’t. Sometime depends on doc or patient as well. Though doc ask one of my wife’s friend to go local clinic for ultrasound and she paid 1500 for ultrasound including DVD she received. May be thats because she was bit younger in her age, don’t know i can guess. Any way my wife gave a birth twice as a normal delivery happily after all. So please next time don’t try to push empty envelop by hearing the person from your next door. Thank you good day.

    • Basti says :

      Well mate, good for you. My experience with two children was different. The pre-checks (two or three during the nine month) at the hospital (Prince of Wales) were great. The other checkups were conducted by a local
      family clinic in Tai Po. All they did was measuring here blood pressure, Puls and her belly circumference. My wife wasn’t thoroughly checked 7 or 8 times before delivery! Ultrasound twice at the hospital, that’s it. What else you need? Start with ultrasound in the family clinics for example. Those devices aren’t too expensive nowadays.

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