Pioneering doctor answers the call to head to mainland China

It has been a challenging exercise, but Shenzhen clinic is finally starting to pay dividends

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 3:48am

Despite complicated procedures and high start-up costs, Dr Hubert Wong Chi-ho has no regrets about opening his pioneering clinic in Shenzhen.

The application process for the 6,000 sq ft clinic in Futian took more than a year, during which time he still had to pay rent - 1.3 million yuan (HK$1.63 million) even before his first patient arrived in May last year.

Wong is limited in the services he can offer over the border, but he still believes his clinic can make a profit.

"The market is big and the outlook is good," he said. "Hong Kong's medical services are very attractive to mainlanders as our medics have a good reputation. They believe that Hong Kong's doctors won't cheat them."

Wong first joined a joint venture to offer a cross-border ambulance service under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, before opening the first mainland clinic owned outright by a Hong Kong doctor.

His Chiho Medical Centre targets high-end customers. About 90 per cent are expatriates, although the number of local customers is increasing. The clinic also attracts a few Shenzhen-based Hongkongers. He plans to add a clinic in Shekou soon.

"When we first applied to set up the clinic we were unfamiliar with the procedures, as were the local officials," he said. "Now that we've done it once I hope the second time will be easier."

Wong has pumped 10 million yuan into the clinic and expects to be breaking even within a year and in profit within three years.

Despite the obstacles, he believes strong demand will lure more doctors across the border.

"In the short term, not many will head to the mainland because Hong Kong is still facing a shortage. But in the long run, more will go to make a living," he said.