It so happened that Kaliningrad journalists were invited to visit the neighboring country immediately after Vladimir Putin signed a program of cross-border cooperation with Poland until 2020.
The agreement has launched many infrastructure projects worth millions of euros. Among them is the construction of a bicycle path from Svetlogorsk to Zelenogradsk, which Kaliningraders have been waiting for for a long time. The Poles, in turn, will receive a new bridge across the river in Bartashitsy, which has not been repaired for many years. We passed next to him when the bus raced us in search of impressions.
The Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship is stunningly beautiful. There are more than 1400 lakes in this region, on the banks of which tourist centers and health resorts grow one after another.
If in our country there is no rehabilitation in the standards for the provision of medical care, then in Poland it is included in the set of compulsory treatment, if the doctor has prescribed it. The state even pays for the services of private owners. True, not all of them find it beneficial to work with the National Health Fund, many prefer to exist autonomously. If we count the prices for air tickets, expenses for accompanying people and accommodation, it is cheaper for Kaliningraders to restore their health in neighboring Poland even with the current ruble exchange rate than in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
We visited several clinics under the Medicine Without Borders program. The average cost of staying there - PLN 200 per day - is comparable to our sanatoriums, which still strive to meet European standards.
According to the head of one of the Kaliningrad travel agencies Svetlana Slepenok, medical tourism is now taking off. The stream goes mainly to Druskininkai, Vilnius (Lithuania). They organize tours to Hungary and Slovakia for mineral water. Residents of the region often go to Poland for rehabilitation. Every Saturday groups leave for Kolobrzeg and Gurovo-Iławieckie.
I think that after our trip the geography of such trips will become wider. There will be added St. Lipka (here is a 15th century church with the oldest organ in Europe), Kentrzyn, Olsztyn, Braniewo, Rybaki, America ...
Polish clinics are more often set up "for a doctor", many of which, by the way, studied in Russia. For example, Nikolai Lopatkin, who removed prostate adenoma to Leonid Brezhnev, was the mentor of professor, urological surgeon Jan Bykovsky.
Belarusians are used to scolding the domestic health care system. Discontent is traditionally caused by inattentive attitude of doctors, eternal queues and you never know what else. At the same time, tens of thousands of foreigners come to our country every year to improve their health. Let's try to figure out what attracts them.
The current situation looks paradoxical also because you regularly hear about fundraising for another child who needs an operation in a Western clinic. However, such cases are relatively few. As a rule, we are talking about unique operations that our doctors are not yet able to perform.
The average level of medicine in Belarus is quite high, and we are talking about both personnel training and technical equipment. At the same time, prices are almost an order of magnitude lower than those offered by clinics in Germany or Israel, not to mention the United States (these countries are considered the leaders of the modern market for medical services).
Private dental clinics have become a kind of pioneers among Belarusian enterprises, which in the mid-2000s staked on attracting foreign clients. And it worked. Russians and other residents of the CIS countries reached out to us. This is quite understandable, since the presence of a language barrier is one of the main factors that still hinders the development of medical tourism in Belarus.
Another significant problem remains the need to obtain visas. If intermediary companies are involved in this process, this significantly increases the cost of the service package. In addition, bureaucratic red tape takes a lot of time. In cases where health is concerned, such a delay is often unacceptable.
In addition to dentistry, the “three whales” that support medical tourism in Belarus also include operative gynecology and plastic surgery. In the first case, a certain role is played not only by the availability of services, but also by the ability to circumvent the law (for example, in neighboring Poland, it is becoming more and more difficult to terminate a pregnancy). In addition, in a foreign country it is easier to do this, avoiding unnecessary publicity.
This also includes a procedure called IVF, which is commonly called artificial insemination. Belarusian clinics can boast that their success has reached the international level (40-45%), while the cost of IVF is about $ 2.5 thousand - not such a large amount for this market segment.
In the case of plastic surgery, it is the commercial component that plays the main role. Correcting the shape of the nose or enlarging the breasts in our country will cost much less than, for example, in Russia. At the same time, tight control by the state over the medical services sector significantly reduces the risk of becoming a victim of fraudsters.
It is not surprising that in Belarusian clinics you can meet residents of Germany and other Western European countries, even if most of them are our former compatriots. It is beneficial for them to undergo treatment in Belarus, since medical insurance in the West, as a rule, does not cover dental services (one of the most expensive), and even more so operations aimed at changing the appearance.
However, not everything is so rosy. More complex types of medical intervention, including organ and tissue transplantation, are not yet very popular, although Belarus has good potential for their implementation. But this is hampered by a whole range of factors, and the visa barrier is far from the only one. So, many foreigners complain about the lack of effective support, as well as the too long period that must be spent in the clinic after the operation.
Still, closer to tourism in the classical sense of the word is a visit by foreigners to Belarusian sanatoriums. Among them, the bulk of them are Russians, for whom it is beneficial to “improve their health” in Belarus. It turns out a budget option for outdoor recreation with three meals a day and restorative procedures.
For a long time, our eastern neighbors were not embarrassed by the unobtrusive Belarusian service. Still, the "golden years" of spa tourism seem to have passed. The difficult economic situation in Russia and the introduction of higher prices for foreigners have done their job: their number in Belarusian health resorts has noticeably decreased, so that the situation when it was impossible to get into our health resorts is more likely a thing of the past.