Moscow Medicine – an Appreciation
This is the first of three articles about medical care in Russia, based on Ross Hunter’s personal experiences. This first article is a general description with some general medical notes, the second will cover general diagnosis and the third, dentistry. In each case, opinions and experiences are invited and welcomed. Please write to Ross on: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comments box below (editor).
1 Medical Case notes
Last month, I ‘decided’ to do some research into the state of medical care in Moscow. There is nothing more boring than people describing their ailments, so I will spare you the gory details, save that it involved a dicky ticker and some DVT blood clots in my leg (assumed to have moved there from their normal home in my brain). I am now fully recovered, thank you. No scars to show off, unless you’d like to see where my new hip was fitted, a year or so ago (in UK), the cause of the DVTs.
Having worked in Moscow on and off for a dozen years, there remain some collective memories of medical methods and care. As this is always a major concern, especially for expats thinking of coming to Moscow, herewith a few observations, from recently and over the decade.
I have nothing but praise and thanks for the quality of care I have enjoyed. Thank you, one and all! When my first new school was being set up, we took the safe route, and signed the expat staff up for insurance in the international sector. This was fine, but absurdly expensive, both for employer and for workers, when paying even a small percentage of total charges. Comparing notes with our locally employed colleagues led to a switch to a local scheme, using ‘normal’ services, saving huge amounts of money with no loss of care quality. The scheme did include a promise of participating clinics having an English speaker on hand, though even that turns out not to be too crucial. Memories from those days are of hospitals very short of both capital and daily cash – peeling paint and antiquated equipment, but effective care nonetheless, thanks to dedicated staff making the most of everything to hand.
A decade later, what has changed? Much and little. Hospitals are still underfunded and overcrowded: patients on trolleys in corridors, six beds in four bed wards; staff working over-long shifts. So far, so much absolutely identical to the NHS in UK. (The NHS is our ailing but beloved National Health Service, fully nationalised, free at the point of use, paid from general taxation). But the equipment in Russia has undergone a revolution: x-ray machines are epochs more modern; CT scanners are on hand and readily available; cardiac monitors are in plentiful supply; staffing levels more generous than at home. Most of all, the care is professional, thorough and holistic – every aspect of a patient’s condition is treated with respect to every other. This is fundamental: age related/geriatric issues are considered along with blood matters, cardiac problems, diet considerations and whatever else is relevant. In contrast, nobody could argue that too much of the budget is wasted on catering. Medicines are generously prescribed – and free in hospital, then laughably cheap compared to UK or France, which are themselves held to be bargains compared to USA.
In Moscow on a long work visa, employers take out health insurance, and care is largely free, except later medicines. I am due a follow up check in a week or two.
So, a system that works fine? Hardly. Money is horribly tight. Far too many super-qualified doctors have to ‘moonlight’ with second, tiring, jobs, or work outside medicine, wasting their potential. Anglophone doctors blame western sanctions for a squeeze on equipment and spare parts, hitting ordinary citizens rather than the elite who can always get what they want. But my limited personal experience says very firmly that if you have to be ill, Moscow is one of the best places to be. Thank you again, and especially the wonderful staff of the Sklifosofsky (formerly Sheremetev) Hospital, at Sukharevskaya/Prospect Mira and other professionals, who would be embarrassed to be named.
Coming soon: general (multinational) observations; then dentistry.
Ross Hunter, February 2018 © RussiaKnowledge
Ross Hunter is the headmaster of ESS School, 111020 Lefortovo