Unless you’re a medical professional, it’s not easy to determine what type of emergency you’re facing and where you should go to find help. This is the Healthy Matters’ guide to finding help in a medical emergency in Hong Kong. We’ve organized this article based on the level of emergency you might be facing.
1) Life-threatening or serious medical emergencies
A life-threatening emergency occurs when a person’s life may be in jeopardy. Usually that person is having difficulty or is not breathing, has severe chest pains, shock or is experiencing uncontrolled breathing.
Public hospital providers
There are 18 Accident and Emergency (A&E) facilities in Hong Kong. Patients are taken to the hospital assigned to the pickup zone. They are triaged dependent on the nature of the emergency and prioritized based on the urgency of their case. This means if it’s a life-threatening emergency, you will be seen right away; anything less and you’ll likely be waiting for a while. The Hospital Authority lists the wait time in every A&E collated from the last few hours as a reference (note, these are not live waiting times). Admission fees in a public A&E are $180 for patients with a HK ID and $1,230 for people who do not have a HK ID.
A complete list of public hospitals with A&E departments can be found in our Healthy Matters directory.
HOW TO GET THERE? Life-threatening emergencies require an on-ambulance paramedic team to stabilize the patient on the way to the hospital. The public ambulance service 999 is free (for both HK ID holders and non HK ID holders such as tourists) and takes patients to public hospitals only.
Private hospital providers
There are only two private hospitals in Hong Kong providing 24-hour emergency medical services.
Union Hospital’s Emergency Medical Centre is located in Shatin (New Territories) and has up-to-date waiting times listed on their site.
Gleneagles Hospital’s 24-hour Outpatient and Emergency Department is located in Wong Chuk Hang (Hong Kong Island).
Consultation fees for both hospitals vary between $270 and $700 depending on the day and time (excluding drugs, tests, surgical procedures). While Union Hospital has been providing emergency services for the past 20 years, Gleneagles Hospital is a newcomer.
We spoke with its CEO Dirk Schraven who explained that the Gleneagles’ “round-the-clock service, provided by a team of Emergency Medicine specialists and General Practitioners will be particularly helpful and convenient to residents on Hong Kong Island South. This setup is the first on Hong Kong Island.”
HOW TO GET THERE? People who want to access private emergency services can either arrive by taxi/private car or call the private ambulance service St John’s Ambulance (1878 000) which is free (for both HK ID holders and non HK ID holders such as tourists). St John Ambulance Brigade can take you to the hospital of your choice unless it’s a life-threatening emergency – in which case they will bring you to the nearest public hospital A&E.
2) Less serious or out-of-hours medical emergencies
If you don’t require medical stabilization to get to the hospital, it’s recommended you get there by taxi or a private car.
Public outpatient clinics
Considering the long waiting times and limited opening hours, public outpatient services are rarely patients’ first choice. People who do not require immediate attention can either make an appointment with a primary care provider or attend one of the outpatient clinics operated in public hospitals. You can make an appointment at an outpatient clinic within 24-hours using their telephone booking system. A full list of specific clinic booking numbers and their operating hours can be found on the Hospital Authority website.
Private hospital outpatient clinics
Most private hospitals in Hong Kong operate 24-hour outpatient clinics that are able to treat you around-the-clock for minor ailments and injuries. However, these 24-hour outpatient services do not constitute medical emergency services such as the ones provided by Union and Gleneagles hospital. They can handle issues ranging from things you may see your GP for during the day (i.e. earaches in the middle of the night) to sprains and breaks. If it’s a serious emergency they cannot handle, you will be sent to a public hospital’s A&E.
Home consultation providers
There are very few private companies such as the Hong Kong Emergency Medical Centre (24-hour service) and Doctors Direct (8am to Midnight) that can offer on-call physicians to visit you at home, office or hotel. A doctor will be able to provide many of the services offered in a GP’s office. It may be costly but this is an option for those who are unable to leave the house due to illness. Costs vary between HK$2,400 and HK$4,800 depending on the day and time and exclude medication.