We debate the pros and cons of going for a public or private hospital birth in Hong Kong.
The first big question most people who are trying to have or are expecting children in Hong Kong is whether to go public or private. The HKSAR government owns and operates many excellent public hospitals with world-class medical care and there are also other very reputable (and some would say luxurious!) private facilities.
Before looking into what Hong Kong has to offer hospital-wise, it’s important to understand what your specific needs are. Sit down with your partner and make a list of “non-negotiables” you want, no matter what, for the duration of your maternity-ward stay. Then, you can proceed with your research: attending hospital tours, educating yourself by talking to an experienced midwife and/or getting the support and valuable information you need from a qualified baby planner. Inevitably, you will ask your friends and acquaintances about their experiences. It is helpful to remember however that, as kind as people can be, they often have biased information to offer and their thoughts/opinions will be based on their own personal needs and wants.
Public Hospital Birth In Hong Kong
To make things more straightforward, here is an unbiased, factual pros and cons list to help you choose between public and private hospitals when giving birth in Hong Kong. Let’s start with birth at public hospitals in Hong Kong.
- Emergency: In case of a medical emergency, public hospitals are the place to be.
- C-sections: The C-section rate is lower here than in private hospitals, which is great for women who prefer the natural birth path.
- Cost: It’s extremely cost-friendly to give birth in a public hospital.
- Admittance: A public hospital cannot turn you down or away. They have to admit you and provide you with labour room facilities.
- Language Barrier: While doctors and nurses usually English, most other hospital staff speak only Cantonese and/or Mandarin.
- No Outside Assistance: Currently, because of the coronavirus outbreak, no one is allowed to be present with the labouring mother and no visitors are allowed post-delivery either. When things return to normal, some public hospitals will allow one partner to participate in the birth – this is only when you are already in advanced stages of active labour and have been moved into the delivery room.
- Not Your Choice: Birth plans are not always respected.
- You won’t have access to your own OB-GYN.
- No Privacy: Some hospital wards can have up to 10 people per room and some public hospitals are “teaching hospitals” so you can be assisted by students and have students observe your delivery.
- Lower rate of C-sections: This can be a problem for women who prefer to opt for C-sections.
- No International Food Options: Only Chinese food is served.
- Less Support: The ratio of patients to midwife is high so you will receive less personalised support for breastfeeding, nursing, etc.
Giving Birth In A Hong Kong Private Hospital
- Plenty of support: The ratio of patients per midwife is very low which guarantees the patient a great deal of personalised support for breastfeeding, nursing, etc.
- Privacy: Private hospitals offer private, semi-private and shared rooms, with a maximum of four patients per room.
- Language: English is spoken in all private hospitals.
- Food: Private hospitals often offer international fare and sometimes even a menu to choose from.
- OB-GYN: The OB-GYN who followed you throughout your pregnancy will deliver your baby.
- Nursery: Staff encourage parents to be hands-on and the baby nursery is easy to access.
- You have to book your spot and secure it with a down payment as soon as you find out you are pregnant.
- Your spot is not guaranteed until the day you go into labour and you can be turned away (in exceptional circumstances).
- All the pros of a private hospital come with a very high price tag.
- Costs can increase drastically when faced with an emergency.
- Emergency: Private hospitals are not well-equipped to handle unexpected and/or unusual medical emergencies; in such cases, patients are transferred to the relevant public hospital.
- C-sections: There is a higher C-section rate at private hospitals (approximately 50% of all births compared to 25% at public hospitals).
Now that you’ve taken all these criteria into consideration, you can decide which type of hospital you want to go for: private or government-owned. Below is a list of the hospitals in Hong Kong you can choose from, depending where you are based.
Public Maternity Hospitals In Hong Kong
If you opt for a public hospital birth, your hospital will be allocated based on your current address.
In-house obstetricians, anesthesiologist, and neonatologists are available 24/7. Antenatal and postnatal checkups and exercise classes are all done at the nearby Tsan Yuk Hospital. A private clinic for delivery at Queen Mary is also available for HKID card holders, given that the patient has a referral letter from a GP or OB-GYN.
As the first hospital in Hong Kong to create the post of “Lactation Specialist” for breastfeeding counselling and classes, Queen Elizabeth is ranked high in baby-friendliness. Additionally, it’s Husband Accompanying Labour (HAL) scheme encourages husbands to stay with wives during delivery and to attend antenatal classes.
Popular amongst public hospitals for its maternity care, Prince of Wales has partnered with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to offer various prenatal examinations, specifically screening for Down Syndrome, SafeT21, and fetal morphology scans. Here you have the option of booking as a private patient, ensuring your own room at a fraction of the cost of a private hospital.
Princess Margaret serves the Kowloon West Cluster, for those in the Kwai Chung, Lai Chi Kok, Tung Chung, Tsuen Wan and Tsing Yi Districts. Its proximity to the airport also means international visitors can arrive here with ease.
With four wards, a 200-strong staff, and approximately 5,500 deliveries per year, the O&G Department at Tuen Mun is always bustling. Apart from an antenatal, postnatal and labour ward, the Yan Oi outpatient clinic conducts prenatal screenings through referrals. Before discharging, post-partum patients may undergo healthcare education covering postnatal self-care, discharge advice and breastfeeding.
Hong Kong Private Maternity Hospitals
The newest private hospital in Hong Kong is quickly becoming a firm favourite for expecting mothers. With twin rooms as standard (as well as private room options), Gleneagles offers just that bit more privacy than some other hospitals. There are trained lactation consultants to help with breastfeeding in those early days and antenatal and infant massage classes on offer. For that extra peace of mind, Gleneagles is also the first private hospital in Hong Kong to offer a NICU for babies requiring extra care in those early days.
Sitting atop The Peak, it’s likely that you’ve come across someone singing the praises of the maternity ward at Matilda Hospital. Benefits like a one-to-one midwife to client ratio, on-demand epidurals and a vast multilingual selection of antenatal courses are just some of the many reasons why Matilda International has such an impressive reputation and loyal clientele. There a range of natural delivery and C-section packages (ranging from two to five nights) and room choices vary from four-person and twin shared rooms to private rooms and VIP suites.
Due to its popularity, you’ll need to pay your deposit and book months in advance to secure your bed at Hong Kong Adventist. Obstetrics packages encompass normal vaginal deliveries and C-sections, both pre-booked and emergency. Select from standard, semi-private, or deluxe and private singles to accommodate your level of comfort.
Having received formal accreditation from the Hong Kong College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists since 2000, the Obstetrics Unit at TWAH prides itself on its modernity and range of obstetric, prenatal and postnatal services. A prenatal care package here covers various routine lab tests, ultrasound scans and optional prenatal classes. Normal delivery or C-section packages both include blood screening, postnatal (or post-op for C-section) observations, take-home medication and postnatal classes.
Prenatal and postnatal checkups here are led by midwives, O&G specialists and advanced practice nurses. Prenatal diagnosis services offer Down’s Syndrome screening, high-resolution fetal scans, chromosome screenings and fetal DNA chip assessments. Choose from spontaneous birth or elective caesarian birth packages, both allowing your newborn to receive umbilical cord blood sampling and vaccinations.
C-section and normal birth packages are available, incorporating vaccines and vitamin injections for the baby. Choose between private and semi-private rooms to ensure the desired intimacy and comfort level of your labour experience – given that you book way in advance. Staying ahead of the curve in maternity care, a Baby Security System has been implemented to prevent infants from being removed from the Maternity Unit without authorisation.
Facilities here include three labour rooms equipped with resuscitators, as well as separate nurseries for both normal and special care infants. Whether you opt for a normal vaginal delivery or a C-section, obstetrics packages guarantee prenatal, postnatal, and neonatal observation care and treatment. Included under these services are postnatal exercise classes led by qualified physiotherapists, breastfeeding and infant care courses.
Known for offering one of the most affordable private maternity packages, St. Paul’s Hospital guarantees luxuries that save you money. Each delivery room is equipped with baby’s monitoring and resuscitation system, as well as a bedside terminal system with in-house entertainment.
Maternity packages, which are either C-section or spontaneous vaginal delivery, include initial immunisations, newborn hearing screenings and routine cord blood screenings. Choose from standard, twin or private suites, which boast five-star amenities – maximising peace and comfort upon the arrival of your newborn.
Read more: How To Choose Your Obstetrician In Hong Kong
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2016 and updated by Jess Mizzi in May 2020.