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Chinese Mainlanders Look to Hong Kong for Better Medical Treatment

Health-care experts in Hong Kong are looking for ways to promote medical services to thousands of mainland Chinese looking for better treatment. Hong Kong has long been seen as a shoppers' paradise. These days, tourists are buying more than designer clothing, jewelry and electronics. Local medical professionals say the territory's private health-care system - considered to be among the best in the region, is drawing in tourists with cash.

Health-care professionals say many of these tourist patients are from mainland China. Although there is no official count, doctors say their numbers have increased over the past year, since Chinese authorities allowed more citizens to visit Hong Kong. "As I'm aware, [at] some of the private hospitals in Hong Kong, five percent of the patients are from the mainland [China]," says Lo Wing Lok, a lawmaker representing Hong Kong's medical sector.

Many mainland residents seek care in Hong Kong because of the city's modern facilities. Private clinics and hospitals are rarely crowded, and patients can get treated quickly, unlike in China's crowded, overburdened public facilities.

One health-care company is tapping the market by renting space in shopping centers to attract passing tourists. Julie Chow is a spokeswoman for Quality HealthCare Asia, which operates dozens of private clinics in Hong Kong. "We try to make ourselves visible so that the walk-in patients can see us, know our presence and then come to the branch," she says.

Dr. Lo notes that a few specialized tour groups from mainland China are catering to medical tourists - making stops at clinics or hospitals so clients can get check-ups. He thinks Hong Kong's medical sector needs to promote its health services in China's southern Guangdong Province.

"These patients were imported to Hong Kong primarily through their family connection and also through business connection. But the general public of Guangdong may not have this kind of channel," says Dr. Lo. "So what we can promote is that Hong Kong as center for modern medical treatment."

He added that a new trade agreement between the mainland and Hong Kong has encouraged private medical providers to look across the border for customers.