Route guided by diagnoses

Modern tourism envisages not just the discovery of countries and continents, with cliches such as ‘look to the right and you’ll see…’ On the contrary, we offer shopping and gastronomic experiences, excursions and medical trips. Our neighbours — the Russians — long ago chose Belarus as their medical-tourist destination, in addition to Israel and Germany. Foreigners from the CIS and beyond are well aware of us offering good value for money regarding dentistry and prosthetics, plastic surgery, oncological services and recuperation from severe injury…

By Alesya Marovskaya

Tourists are not adventurers

Exports of medical services are gaining momentum at the Republican Scientific-Practical Centre of Traumatology and Orthopaedics. In 2009, 272 foreigners addressed it for treatment and diagnosis; in 2010, the figure rose to 497. The Centre’s revenue has increased accordingly. “Last year, we fulfilled 125 percent of our planned medical service sales,” explains the Head of the Centre’s Non-Budgetary Activity Department, Margarita Kurbalenko, adding, “Foreigners are satisfied with the prices we offer. For example, those who’ve received diagnosis and treatment of arthrosis via arthroscopy tell us that, in Moscow, the $500 fee for this service wouldn’t buy a single dental implant.”

As a rule, foreigners come to Belarus to consult their ‘own’ doctor, with most hearing of the Centre by word of mouth. Personal contacts of doctors with foreign colleagues are also vital, while Internet ads are the third most effective form of advertisement.

Couples with fertility problems often come to our Republic, with ten percent undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) at the Reproductive Medicine Centre coming from abroad. All leave the Centre happy, due to the professionalism of local doctors, good results and inexpensive yet efficient services. Moreover, many states legislatively restrict operations of this kind.

Point of support

No doubt, medical tourism brings prestige, as well as profit. How can we increase this revenue? Improving medical services’ quality is the best solution. We can hardly find fault with the medical side: our best clinics and centres boast perfect equipment, while our medical personnel are highly trained. However, organisational issues leave much to be desired. According to the Deputy Head of the Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism Department at the Minsk City Executive Committee, Vitaly Moshechkov, the state earned $1m last year from such service exports. The figure could rise 5-fold in the near future, if a reasonable business approach is applied. “We plan to establish co-operation with tourist companies already boasting experience in this sphere,” he says. “Others will join us in due course.”

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