Maternity in Hong Kong: Public VS Private Hospitals

As a soon-to-be mother, there is a lot to consider before giving birth in Hong Kong. One of the first things expectant mothers will consider is where they are going to experience one of the most important moments of their lives. Unlike many other countries, when it comes to delivering a baby, Hong Kong only has two options. Which brings us to a very popular debate amongst Hong Kongers: do you go through childbirth in a public or private hospital? Before the two options are even compared, it must be said that the standard of medical care in Hong Kong is world-class. The difference between the two really comes down to the level of comfort and personal care you desire, and inevitably, the cost. All women in Hong Kong  are eligible to give birth at a public hospital as long as they have obtained a referral from a GP confirming the birth and have presented it to Tsan Yuk Hospital for registration.  The cost of the public system is commonly the deciding factor, where the cost of childbirth is all inclusive, ranging between HKD$300 and HKD$1500 if you are a HKID card holder. However, if you are looking for a more luxurious experience and greater personal care, then the private route may be your preferred choice, where you will be looking at a bill upwards of HKD$100,000. Non-residents without a HKID card are not able to enjoy the heavily subsided cost of childbirth at public hospitals and will be looking at and a price tag comparable to that of private hospitals. 

Public healthcare: What to expect

According to Bloomberg, Hong Kong has the most efficient healthcare system in the world. The cost of healthcare at public hospital certainly does not reflect the quality of care that patients receive, where public hospitals are known to be extremely efficient. 

It is primordial that you register yourself into the public healthcare system  as soon as you confirm your pregnancy. With the addition of many expectant mothers coming over from the Mainland, public hospitals are always busy. Unfortunately, with the public healthcare system being so busy, you may experience long waiting times, in which it is best to carve out half a day’s worth of time for your appointments. Another downside to using the public healthcare system is that you cannot choose your obstetrician. At each appointment, you may see a different doctor as the practitioner is whoever is on duty. This is also the case for the birth, where you are not able to choose who delivers your baby. The number of natural births is much higher in public hospitals as C-sections are not optional, unless carried out for medical reasons. When it comes to preparing themselves for the arrival of their newborn, many women choose to hire a private midwife, as birth preparation classes offered by public hospitals are often given in Cantonese.

Once you are in labour and have been admitted to hospital, you will be taken to the labour ward. Birth partners are not allowed in the labour ward outside visiting hours, however if you are not being monitored you can leave the ward to walk around and be with your partner. At public hospitals, babies are usually delivered by a midwife, with a doctor on hand to assist in case of complications. The midwives and doctors are professional and cautious, providing the best possible care to newborn babies. However, it is important to note that epidurals are not easily available in public hospitals. If you already know that you will require an epidural, it is best to be firm and request in advance as it can take several hours for it to be administered from the time of request.

Most of the public hospitals in Hong Kong have a 24-hour stay policy, with strict visiting hours which limits the time your partner will be able to spend with your newborn. Additionally, other visitors such as older siblings, private midwives or extended family are not permitted in the post-natal ward since is it a shared ward with other new mothers. Your baby will be well cared for after your birth, with fairly strict protocol that they adhere to. Public hospitals place a strong emphasis on breastfeeding, which is highly beneficial to you and your new baby, and depending on your baby’s health, you will be able to have your baby by your side at all times. Last but not least, note that in public hospitals, only Chinese food is served, and there is not a lot to be expected about the standard of your meals. Once you have been discharged from hospital, post-natal checkups take place at the government-run Maternal and Child Health Centre. It is recommended that you hire a midwife or a nurse for home visits once returning home to check up on you and your baby’s health.

In Hong Kong, public hospital staff and facilities are the best equipped to handle emergency cases, while many private hospitals lack neonatal intensive care units (NICU). As a result, newborn babies delivered in private hospitals who require emergency care are transferred to the NICU at Queen Mary Hospital. In this case, the mother would remain at the private hospital to recover, which would mean separation between mother and child. Finally, unlike private facilities, public hospitals have an obligation to admit patients who are going into labour and to provide them with labour facilities, regardless of whether they have booked a room or not. 

Private healthcare: What to expect

In private hospitals, you will be able to enjoy luxuries that are not available at public hospitals. One of the main reasons expectant parents lean towards private hospitals for childbirth is because of the ability to choose their obstetrician. This results in a higher level of personal care, as you are able to review your medical checkups with the same doctor throughout your pregnancy. Your chosen obstetrician is also the one present at the birth, delivering your baby. Pre-natal visits with private doctors are consistent and the waiting time is generally short. Private hospitals are in high demand, so if this is your preferred choice for birth, book a room as soon as you have confirmed your pregnancy. A costly deposit is required to book a room, however the downside is that there is no guarantee that you will give birth at your chosen private hospitals if all the beds are occupied, even if you have paid in advance.

With such a high price tag, you would expect there to be the frills to match. In private hospitals, there are better room facilities and the level of comfort you can expect to experience is much higher. In some hospitals, there are bath and shower facilities available if you request to use them. Private hospitals tend to have more flexible visiting hours, in which your birth partner can be present throughout the entirety of your labour and the birth. If you are in a private room, at some hospitals, your partner is allowed to sleep in the same room. The rate of C-sections at private hospitals is greater than that of public hospitals since you have a choice of C-section if this is your preferred way to deliver your baby. There is also a higher rate of medical interventions at private hospitals such as induction of labour, the use of forceps, epidurals and C-sections.

In private hospitals after childbirth, your partner has greater access to your baby, with unlimited visiting hours – other visitors are free to join you in your room whenever you please, with no set visiting hours. In public hospitals, mothers are encouraged to have their babies with them at all times despite the wards being busy, whereas in private there are nurseries open round-the-clock where babies can stay. You can check with your chosen hospital if the baby is placed with you or in a nursery. There will be frequent visits made by your doctor and pediatrician to assess you and your baby’s health after birth. There is plenty of staff on hand to help give advice, provide medication and to help with breast feeding. Once you have been discharged, visits to your home by a midwife or nurse are always recommended.

Half-Half (Public & Private Care)

Many women desire more personalised pre-natal care, but find that the cost of delivery in the private sector is too high. With costs being one of the most important factors when planning the arrival of a new baby, many women choose to go down the half and half route. This involves using private services for pre-natal healthcare and giving birth in a public hospital. As delivery is the largest expense among pregnancy fees, this solution can help to balance the costs while having a close follow-up throughout the pregnancy. Other women also have only one option: in case of complicated pregnancy, public hospitals are the best place to be as they are the best equiped to deal with medical emergencies and complications. 

How to cope with maternity costs

Hong Kong’s public and private healthcare systems allow all women to access world-class medical care. However, it is easy for maternity costs in Hong Kong to mount up and become a burden for soon-to-be mothers. 

What can APRIL do to help?

To help you cope with your maternity expenses, whatever option you choose, APRIL offers you two tailor-made solutions:

  • If you opted for our MyHEALTH insurance plan, APRIL will cover all your expenses up to your plan’s limit (consultation fees, midwife services, vitamins and supplements…).
  • If you give birth in a hospital of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, MyHEALTH also offers you the possibility to receive a maternity cash benefit. This cash envelope up to the value of US$3,000 will cover all your medical expenses in a public facility. With the rest of your money, you can enjoy any other service you like: additional checkups, services of a private midwife, even prenatal yoga classes or massages – there is no restriction, you can spend this money on whatever you like to help you experience a smooth pregnancy.

Don’t hesitate to contact our advisors today to  learn more about our solutions that can cover your maternity expenses.

 

Date of publication August 3, 2017