Known for its colorful traditions and beautiful mountainous terrains, Mongolia offers a unique living and traveling experience for adventurous expats. However, as a country lacking various basic infrastructures, it is important that expats are aware of the state of Mongolia’s healthcare system.
This guide by Pacific Prime will take you through all the key pointers on Mongolia’s healthcare system that expats need to know, such as private hospitals, essential vaccinations, and health insurance.
Getting to know Mongolia
Mongolia, a country known for its unique history and culture of nomads and horse-tamers, is located in East and Central Asia. At 1,564,116 sq. km., it is the world’s second-largest landlocked country. Most of the country’s land is made up of steppes, mountains, and deserts. It is a unique place with influences from Tibetan Buddhism and the former Soviet Union.
Despite its location between two of the largest countries in the world, China and Russia, Mongolia has still managed to maintain its own distinct culture. Around 30 percent of the population is still nomadic or semi-nomadic, which makes horse riding an essential part of Mongolian culture. Traditional Mongolian sports are also widely popular.
Every year, during the main festival of Naadam, contestants still compete in traditional Mongolian sports such as wrestling, archery, horse-racing, sheep ankle-bone-flicking, and throat singing.
Healthcare in Mongolia
For the past two decades, the Mongolian healthcare system has been slowly transitioning from a centrally-planned economy to a market-oriented economy, and its health sector has followed suit. These are the key characteristics of Mongolia’s healthcare system.
Mongolia has seen great positive changes in its healthcare system, and with a growing economy, this trend is predicted to continue. The government budget accounts for 62.1% of health sector financing, followed by health insurance (over 24.9%), user fees (3.2%), and other sources (9.8%).
The Mongolian healthcare system is administered centrally. The Ministry of Health and the prime minister are responsible for developing healthcare policies, regulations, and strategies. The Ministry of Health is then responsible for the implementation and assessment of these orders. These responsibilities are also delegated to the heads of each province, which are often made up of several districts. The capital city of Ulaanbaatar is unique in that it is made up of 9 urban local governments.
Tiers in healthcare services
Healthcare services are divided into three tiers: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
- Primary: At the primary level are family group practices (FGP), mainly found in the urban areas. These are groups of primary care physicians that provide primary healthcare services in Ulaanbaatar, province centers, and other cities.
- Secondary: Rural areas tend to have more facilities that belong in the secondary level, which is made up of district hospitals. These health centers can be quite large and offer a wide range of services. However, district hospitals may not be able to offer complicated medical procedures.
- Tertiary: At the tertiary level are the major hospitals and specialized facilities. These include centers for cancer, maternity care, psychiatric care, infectious diseases, and many more. These centers do offer a higher level of care, but still remain poorly equipped relative to western standards. Patients with more serious injuries or illnesses may have to be evacuated to Beijing or Seoul.
Mongolia has over 4,005 health-related facilities nationwide, including 91 public hospitals, and more than 240 inpatient private hospitals, 1,226 outpatient clinics, and 1,277 private pharmacies.
Top private hospitals for expats
Private hospitals are preferred by expats thanks to their higher-quality services and English-speaking staff. Here are two key private hospitals in Mongolia that you should keep in mind.
Intermed Hospital (Ulaanbaatar): Opened in 2014, the hospital has the capacity to receive around 90 inpatients at a time, and has 16 outpatient clinics (except spinal). Annually, the hospital can receive up to 5,000 inpatients and 100,000 outpatient visits.
- Songdo Hospital (Ulaanbaatar): Songdo hospital is the first private general hospital in Mongolia that provides comprehensive medical services including outpatient, inpatient services surgery, radiology, clinical, and pathological laboratory, to meet primary through tertiary healthcare needs of our customers. In 2014, it was acquired by Bumrungrad Hospital PLC (BH).
The key challenge that impedes Mongolia from improving the health of its citizens is the disparity between the rural and urban areas and the rich and the poor. This is evident in the quality and accessibility to health and social services in rural areas. These are the factors that contribute to the lack of accessibility of healthcare services in Mongolia’s rural areas.
- Culture and lifestyle: With the culture and lifestyle of the Mongolian population, it is often difficult for the government to create an infrastructure that can service the nomadic or semi-nomadic groups. To tackle this problem, the Mongolian government is trying to create an e-health system so that regions can be linked through an integrated database.
- Poor infrastructure: There are often bad roads or no roads at all, so citizens may have to travel very far to get treatment or diagnosis, which often means that people are diagnosed too late. As Mongolia has the world’s highest rate of liver cancer, with liver and cirrhosis cancer, causing 15% of all deaths in the country, late diagnosis exacerbates the cancer crisis the country is currently facing.
Healthcare is improving in Mongolia, but most of this development is in Ulaanbaatar and other major urban areas. Rural areas still remain in dire need of access to medical treatment.
In case of emergency, these are the emergency contact numbers in Mongolia:
- Ambulance: 103
- Directory assistance: 109
- Police: 102
- Immigration Office: 1882
Recommended vaccinations include:
- Hepatitis A
Although Mongolia has a better healthcare system than many other low-income countries, it is still important to carry your own basic medical supplies and medicine. Many medical provisions that are available in your home country may not be available in Mongolia, especially in rural areas. If you require prescription medicine, make sure to take enough to last for your stay.
Health insurance reforms
Health insurance reforms, the expansion of the health insurance package to outpatient services, high-cost diagnostics and treatments, and medicine reimbursement have combined to push down the share of inpatient care covered by health insurance from 66.3% in 2011 to 47.1% in 2016.
Health insurance for expats
Apart from the lack of accessible healthcare in rural areas, the healthcare facilities in urban areas are still below that of Western Europe and North American standards. Furthermore, serious injuries or illnesses may require evacuation to Korea or China, so be sure to take out a medical insurance policy that covers evacuation transportation costs, which may be very expensive.
For this reason, if you are looking to move or travel to Mongolia, we strongly advise that you purchase international health insurance before they arrive.
This is where Pacific Prime comes in. As a global insurance brokerage, we are able to offer you offer professional advice at no cost. No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can help find a policy that fits you or your group. Our private health insurance policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, expat health insurance, and many more. Please contact us today for a free consultation or click the button below for a no-obligation, free quote.