Comparing Hospitals Around the World
Let's compare hospitals and healthcare around the world!Society
If you had to guess, how many hospitals would you say there were in the entire world? Considering there are more than 7.7 billion people on earth, you might be thinking something high like 500,000 or 750,000. But according to records, it’s estimated that there are only about 100,000 hospitals operating worldwide presently.
While that’s not many, the level of care that each of them provides varies wildly depending on the country they’re in, and the healthcare systems they depend on. From the food they serve, to the cost of an operation, it’s time to compare different hospitals and healthcare standards around the world.
Nothing in life is free and that’s especially true in the case of healthcare. Even in countries with Universal Healthcare, where everyone has access to medical attention, it’s a system that’s funded through taxes, compulsory insurance, or a similar initiative that doesn’t leave people out of pocket.
But they can also support private healthcare insurances, so they can elect to pay more for more comfortable medical experiences. These countries include Canada, Australia, Russia, almost all of South America and Europe, the UK, China, and believe it or not, North Korea, to name but a few.
Countries without a universal healthcare system usually rely on insurance-based operatives, where individuals are responsible for taking out private health insurance, which can also be provided through their jobs or the government. If not, you generally have no choice but to pay up front.
Countries that rely on this method include Indonesia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Suriname, and most famously, The United States; the only wealthy, industrialized nation which doesn’t utilize universal healthcare.
The main argument against the implementation of Universal Healthcare is that it would essentially require healthy people to pay for the medical care of unhealthy people. This, apparently, goes against the American values of individual choice and personal responsibility.
As such, an individual in America pays $7,470 per year for health insurance on average. In Canada, the amount the government spends on healthcare per person per year is around $3,450. In the UK it’s roughly $3,240. In Japan, it’s about $3,600.
In fact, the closest any other Universal Healthcare dependent nation comes to the USA’s spend is Germany, at just over $5,055, which is still a whole third less.
Rooms And Conditions
Considering the different ways healthcare is funded, the state of hospital rooms and resources can vary vastly from one part of the world to another.
In Sierra Leone, like in America, healthcare is not free, and the entire industry is notoriously underfunded. It was so ill-equipped to deal with the 2014 Ebola epidemic that it needed outside volunteers to help and provide more training.
The lack of resources at Connaught Hospital, one of the more well-funded hospitals, is still clear though. All wards here are communal, with up to 50 patients waiting to be treated in each, though it’s regularly overcrowded.
There’s limited equipment, basic medicines, and even doctors, with only one full time doctor assigned to the intensive care ward, all of which the patient has to pay for upfront. What the wards do seem to have plenty of for free though is mosquito nets, to help prevent patients from catching malaria while they’re prone.
Over in North Korea, the situation isn’t much better. Though the country claims to have a universal healthcare system in place, witness testimonies paint a different picture.
Defectors from this militaristic dictatorship claim the free healthcare policy applies only to the uppermost classes living in Pyongyang.
Most North Korean citizens find themselves having to pay for medical procedures, as well as the medical instruments and medications needed, like in Sierra Leone. To make this even worse, they report that most hospitals have no heating or electricity.
It’s believed that since the Covid pandemic, which ceased almost all trade to the hermit kingdom, health-related spending plummeted even further. It’s currently unknown what the state of the medical system is, but experts believe for the majority of the 25 million strong population, it’s not good news.
Over the sea in Japan, things couldn’t be more different if they tried. The government and employers pay for the majority of medical costs, while patients pay up to 30%, with all Japanese residents required by law to have health insurance.
However, all medical fees are strictly regulated by the government to keep them affordable. Anyone too poor to afford insurance has their tab picked up by the government. Thanks to this law, Japanese citizens go to the doctors, on average, three times more than their American counterparts.
And it’s not hard to see why. Private rooms at the University of Tokyo are over 1600 square ft in size, have 3 TVs, a compact kitchen, 2 toilets, and a full drawing room. Meanwhile, the cost is 231,000 yen per day.
However, paying just 30% means it’s only 69300 yen a day, which is a little over $530! That sounds pretty expensive, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg! Until recently, Tokyo’s Mizuguchi Hospital, technically a gynecology clinic, offered pregnant women the opportunity to give birth in a luxury chamber!
Decked out with the finest furnishings and luxuries, new mothers would be treated to a celebration dinner and afternoon tea after delivering their bundle of joy. The cost is a mere $75,000 per night. Forget a silver spoon, those babies will have been born with the entire silverware set in their mouths!
Over in Dubai, one type of luxury simply isn’t enough! At their most luxurious, hospitals can offer two high end, private room types: VIP & Royal.
The VIP rooms at City Hospital, for example, look more like luxury apartments centered around medical beds. Multiple TVs, oak veneer panels and state-of-the-art technology, all for a wallet busting 9300 Emirati Dirham, some $2500 per night.
However, the Royal suite at the same hospital, with private entrances, exits, and 3800 sq. ft can’t be bought. According to reports, it’s only available to members of the country’s ruling family! That’s what you call an exclusive room!
So, how does America measure up? Well, the country has some of the most high-tech hospitals in the world, like the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center. Private rooms here are modern and clean, while the hospital itself is home to some of the most advanced medical technology and highly trained staff in the world!
How much to stay there? Costs depend on the patient’s diagnosis. But a private room here starts at $4400, per night, which can rocket up to $6,000, though these costs can be reduced to a third if they’re paid up in cash.
And that’s just for the room, no medical services included! For perspective, even the cheapest private room option here is about $1000 more expensive than a night in a Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
With the base cost systems established in your mind, how much do you think it costs to have a baby in a hospital in some of these countries?
Let’s start in the UK, a country very proud of their NHS, or National Health Service. This universal healthcare covers the cost of any public hospital necessity, so it’s completely free to have the baby delivered in a public hospital.
The level of care the NHS affords is also quite high, with a maternal mortality rate, that’s the ratio of new-mother deaths relative to the number of live births, currently at just 9 per 100,000 births.
If a mother-to-be decides she wants to give birth in a private hospital though, for more personalized care, lower wait times, and hotel style service, costs suddenly increase to an average of £5850, some $7160, per night. And that’s not including any of the additional fees for staff like anesthetists and obstetricians.
It’s a similar situation in China, where the costs of giving birth in a public hospital are usually covered by state insurance. However, in the most populous country in the world, resources are tight, and many expectant Chinese mothers are turning to private clinics, which can charge more than 100,000 yuan, some $15,700.
In terms of the maternal mortality rate ratio though, this currently sits at 18 deaths per 100,000 live births, twice that of the UK.
In Saudi Arabia, it’s a similar deal. Public hospitals are free to Saudi citizens, but foreigners or expats need insurance if they plan on giving birth in the country. Otherwise, they could face an out-of-pocket delivery charge of more than 5,000 Saudi Riyals, some $1300.
That may sound kind of expensive for a public hospital, but Saudi Arabia does boast an impressively low maternal mortality ratio of just 7 per 100,000 live births. And, thanks to the norms set in this country, some insurers will offer to cover expenses like ear piercings for baby girls.
So how does America measure up? Not great, actually. The average cost of having a baby starts at $10,800, and shockingly, that’s without any complications and with insurance.
Depending on the hospital in question though, prices can vary wildly, because it’s the hospitals that set the prices on the care they provide. The cheapest delivery with insurance can be found in Alabama, which costs roughly $5,230 to deliver naturally.
If you don’t have insurance, the last place you want to be is Alaska, because for a natural birth they’ll charge an unreal $20,200 on average, and for a C-section that shoots up to $28,600.
And this is all just to deliver the baby, literally. If you want to hold your baby after you’ve just spent 9 months carrying them inside you, you can expect a Skin-to Skin charge of about $40 on your itemized hospital bill.
Well, for that amount, at least the care they’re paying for will mean the maternal mortality rate will be really low, right? Dead wrong. At about 24 deaths per 100,000 live births, the USA categorically has the worst ratio among all developed, industrialized countries.
This is because the USA has an overall shortage of maternity care providers, such as midwives and obstetricians, relative to the number of births, at just 12 per 1,000 live births. In almost every other wealthy, industrialized country, aside from Canada, this number is 2 to 6 times greater.
While that sounds bad, it could be so much worse. Over in South Sudan, the maternal mortality rate is the worst in the entire world, with a staggering 789 per 100,000 live births ending fatally for the mother.
This is because 67 out of South Sudan’s 79 counties have inadequate or no health care services at all due to dilapidated structures, outdated equipment, and a closure of health facilities. Presently, the maternity clinic at Juba Teaching Hospital, the only referral hospital in a country with a population of more than 10.1 million, has fewer than 50 beds.
The hospital provides care for free, but power cuts are frequent and resources, medicine and trained medical attendants are scarce. It’s probably no surprise then that around 90% of pregnant women in South Sudan deliver at home.
While South Sudan’s position isn’t enviable, Norway’s most definitely is. With just 2 fatalities per 100,000 live births, Norway has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. And how much do they have to pay for this clearly excellent care?
Alongside public healthcare being free, new parents here are actually paid to have babies! It’s called barnetrygd, or child benefit, which most new Norwegian parents are entitled to, whether the child was born to them or adopted. They can opt to receive a lump sum of 90,300 Norwegian krone per child, around $9,200!
This helps cover some of the expenses of having a new child, ensuring a better quality of life for the family! But support doesn’t stop there, as parents are then entitled to receive small monthly payments of around $140 until the child turns 18!
But this isn’t unique to Norway. France, Sweden, Spain, Italy and several others all offer grants and monthly payments to new parents to encourage them to have children so that their country’s respective birth rates don’t drop!
Every year, it’s estimated that more than 1 million people undergo heart surgery. This is usually to treat heart valves, such as a narrowing of the valve due to heart disease, or a leak in the valve that allows the blood to flow backwards.
These are pretty essential procedures, but elements of them can vary around the world, namely the price.
Let’s start in Russia. With the way their universal healthcare works, any valve surgery, pre-planned or emergency, is free to Russian citizens. However, Russia is open to privately insured medical care or medical tourism, where tourists visit the country with the express need of getting treatment done.
Treatments are priced on complexity, with some bypass surgery reaching 340,000 Rubles in price, a little over $5,200. In the UK, like Russia, surgery like this is free, but it still has a cost. For all the doctors and equipment required to carry out very complex heart surgeries, it costs an average of £22,900 per patient, a little over $28,500. And none of this is paid out of pocket; the only payment taken is the funding they provide in their taxes.
Japan’s public-private healthcare blend means emergency heart surgery of this nature can be billed at more than 7 million yen, some $54,000! But thanks to the varying degrees of patient coverage schemes Japan runs, most won’t pay more than 30% of that.
And for more expensive procedures, there are certain limits on what someone can pay, ensuring they don’t go bankrupt from a hospital visit, as Yu found out! Their father’s emergency heart surgery bill was reduced to a mere 53,760 yen, a little over $415. Just a small difference of 13,000%.
As for the US, emergency heart surgery should be covered by most insurance packages. However, there’s always the possibility that you might be treated by an out of network doctor. In the emergency room, hospitals might contract in doctors that don’t work for your insurance company.
If that’s the case, and you don’t get a chance to ask, “Are you in my network?” the insurance company might charge you the full amount. In that situation, you could be staring down the barrel of a bill that adds up to an incomprehensible $200,000.
If you live outside the US, you might be surprised to learn that Americans have to pay for the ambulances they call out. And Americans, you might be surprised to learn that in most other nations, ambulance services are almost always free to call! But free doesn’t always mean better.
In the UK, all NHS ambulance services are free, including air ambulance callouts! However, the current wait time for an urgent, but not an emergency or life threatening, injury sits at around 3 ½ hours. This comes down to increased demand and a lack of available beds in hospitals, tying up valuable ambulance services in ER queues, sometimes for hours!
Over in Hong Kong, ambulances are also free, but there have been wait times reportedly stretching up to 39 hours during the COVID-19 lockdown regulations!
Again, the state funded system is stretched to its brink, leaving many that need care waiting for it to arrive.
In India, while the public hospital system is free for the majority of residents, there’s only about 26,000 ambulances available for the 1.38 billion people in the country. That’s 1 ambulance for every 53,000 people!
As such, private ambulance drivers can legally charge 1500 rupees, about $20, for the first 10 kilometers of a journey, and 100 rupees, about $1.29, for every kilometer after that.
In Canada, which relies on a publicly funded system called Canadian Medicare, ambulances are effectively free in some provinces, but not in others. In Quebec, for example, the cost of ambulance transportation is $125 plus $1.75 per kilometer traveled to the hospital. This base fee increases to $400 for foreigners.
However, these costs can be waived if the individual was injured in a road accident, was being transported between institutions, or has received income security benefits. In Ontario, the bill is $45, but if the trip is deemed medically unnecessary, patients can be slapped with a bill of up to $240 for wasting resources!
In Germany, public ambulances are free for citizens. But if a foreigner finds themselves in need of an ambulance, they won’t usually be charged more than 10 euros, a little over $12, thanks to Germany’s world-class healthcare system which absorbs the majority of the costs!
In the United Arab Emirates, healthcare isn’t free, and insurance is mandatory, with citizens expected to have their health cards on them at all times in case of an emergency. This is because ambulance costs alone can vary from 600 to 1200 dirhams. That’s roughly $150 to $330!
However, the call volume to the national ambulance service has almost tripled in the last two years, with just 60% of calls now warranting an ambulance dispatch. As for America, a ground ambulance can cost up to $1200 and an air ambulance, $20,000.
But insurance should cover it, right? Well, in a recent study, it was revealed 72% of ambulance providers don’t take their insurance, because the provider itself isn’t ‘in network’.
When ambulances aren’t in-network, they can charge whatever they see fit, and insurance is not always obligated to pay those charges in full. This leaves around 79% of those calling an ambulance with a surprise bill amounting to an average of $550.
While no number of machines and robotics can make up for good bedside manners and well-trained doctors, advanced technology can go a long way when it comes to medical treatment.
The University of Tokyo hospital, for example, is constantly pushing the boundaries on the use of robotics! From testing robotics systems designed for pinpoint precision operations such as neurosurgery, to using ultrarealistic lifelike robots that move and respond to pain to train dentistry students!
The lifelike robots may look a little creepy, but they teach students how to interact with a patient, rather than just seeing them as a set of teeth.
Over in America’s Mayo Clinic and some of the UK’s NHS centers, cancer treatment is taken to the next level with proton beam therapy. It directs an intense beam of radiation into tumors in the body, instead of subjecting the entire body to damaging chemotherapy effects.
It’s incredibly effective for a small subset of people, and as a bonus, it utilizes technology that sounds like it’s been plucked out of Star Trek.
In the UK, surgery simulators are being put to the test to help train the muscle memory of soon-to-be-surgeons, along with the lifesaving, decision-making skills they’ll need in a virtual environment.
Compared to all these advancements, North Korea’s hospitals look like time capsules. The last real investment the government made into healthcare was back in the 1970’s, and it really shows.
The majority of the equipment has been donated by their allies, like Russia and China, but is predominantly outdated. Maternity wards in Pyongyang’s hospitals demonstrate this, with many of them still using incubators that are over 20 years old!
In fact, the hospital in the image below is still using the Atom V-75 incubators from 1975. So, these hospitals are literally using 50-year-old machines. And this is from North Korea’s most modern facility!
Hospital food is universally slammed as some of the worst sustenance on the planet, next to school meals and prison rations. But the quality of what you are served, and even the basics, can vary from hospital to hospital.
Let’s start in Hungary, where, ironically, it looks like the patients might actually be going hungry! A Hungarian hospital served a breakfast consisting of a piece of bread, a spring onion, and a yogurt dip.
While onion and cream role ups are a delicacy in Hungary, this portion sizing seems a little sparse in my opinion!
However, another photo of hospital food confirms that small portion sizes are how Hungarian hospitals do breakfast.
At first look, the breakfast seems to have two sausages, a slice of bread, and a literal jug of tea. But those aren’t sausages; those are little crescent shaped bread rolls! So, this is a breakfast of bread, bread, and bread. Maybe it’s a hint that they want the patients to leave.
If you thought this sort of breakfast might be a one off, it turns out it's a similar story over in Poland! A hospital served just bread, butter, half a tomato, boiled egg, and a cream-based dip for breakfast. While you can’t deny it’s nutritionally balanced, it may still leave you hungry.
Let’s move onto lunch and where better to start than Germany? Plenty of other places, it would seem. Apparently, one hospital served their patients an Italian potato omelet for lunch.
I'm not quite sure what’s Italian about burned peas, burned egg and weird little potato cubes. However, this seems like it might have been a one off, with the majority of German hospital meals relying on staples of meat, cheese, vegetables, breads, and fruit.
Austria seems to have gotten the color memo, but not the consistency. The lunch picture below looks like a mystery swirled green puree, what looks like mashed potato and a crime scene?
The weird pink cube apparently had the texture of a moose, so I’m afraid to theorize what the consistency of the red sauce there might have been! Although, this super soft meal was probably prepared as part of a specific dietary requirement. Possibly for someone with no teeth or taste buds.
If we head down under to Australia, it doesn’t get much better. Back in 2019, South Australia’s Flinders Medical Center received more than 600 complaints about the food. From whole meals consisting of one chicken slice, to a bizarrely bland plate, the hospital definitely deserved all those complaints in my opinion!
Over the border in Victoria though, Malvern Cabrini Hospital is serving up gourmet meals! There’s variety, there’s color, and the presentation is hard to believe. Why is this difference so huge? Well, Australia provides Medicare to all citizens, but also supports private healthcare via insurance operatives. Flinders is a public hospital, whereas Cabrini is private, hence the huge hike in standards.
It could be worse though; it could be Russia! Just look at the image of the meal below. Is that pasta noodles with mystery meat? It does not have any sauce, cheese, or anything else. My mouth feels dry just looking at this.
A relatively standard Russian menu places emphasis on energy, so protein and carbohydrate rich foods like porridge, potatoes and cheese are commonplace. But for all the shade I just threw at Russia, not even their worst can compare to some of America’s tomfoolery!
A hospital in the USA served a new mother a plate consisting of 3 stems of broccoli, a potato, and a charcoal-like steak.
If that looked tough to swallow, you wouldn't believe what another hospital served to a patient who had no teeth and needed soft food they could easily munch on.
While I can appreciate the effort that went into skinning the apple, did they really have to serve them obviously unseasoned soupy, mushy meat pellets? Looks like something I’d feed my rabbit rather than my grandma.
At least the portions were there, unlike a meagre meal like the one in the picture below. It was served in a hospital in Beverly Hills. Looks like someone really tried to make those two sad looking sausages fancy by adding garnish.
It’s not exactly surprising as, ike all other aspects of healthcare in America, meals are paid for by the insurance companies. While most meals are required to meet a stringent set of nutritional guidelines, corners can be cut, leading to plenty of processed foods and cheap carbohydrates being served to patients to preserve profits.
Nowhere is that more evident than in New York, where the food is apparently pulverized onto patient’s plates! You might not think the meal below looks that bad, but those peas are actually pureed broccoli.
Back over in Japan though, their hospital menus couldn’t look tastier if they tried. The combination of private-public funding of the hospitals allows registered dieticians to prepare menus depending on the patients' conditions.
Those in maternity wards are given a variety of nutritious foods, packed with multiple vegetables, fruits and clean proteins.
Rice is served, quite traditionally, with almost every meal. Other patients receive a similar spread, reliant on rice, but supplemented by fish, seafood, plenty of vegetables, soup, and tea. If I was hospitalized there, I’d probably leave healthier than when I walked in!