Healthcare in Russia

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Introduction

Throughout the federation’s complicated history, the quality of healthcare in Russia has varied greatly. Today, individual experiences of Russian healthcare depend mainly on one’s location within the country.

Expats in Russia are likely to be situated in one of the major cities where medical equipment, staff and treatment prospects are better than in smaller towns and rural areas. However, even in major metropolises public facilities are still unlikely to match Western standards, so international health insurance is highly recommended for expats relocating to Russia.

Public healthcare

Because regional budgets fund the bulk of healthcare costs, standards and health statistics vary drastically across Russia’s economically diverse regions. However, generally speaking, public hospitals in the country are unlikely to be up to expat standard. If expats do decide to make use of these facilities, they will need to come prepared with a good grasp of Russian, or at least bring along a local friend to translate.

With dwindling state funding, public healthcare facilities in Russia face numerous problems such as staff shortages, outdated equipment and long waiting times.

Private healthcare

Expats in Moscow and St Petersburg are best placed for healthcare as these cities have international hospitals, where service is generally good and closer to the standards expats may be used to. Doctors at these hospitals are often Western-educated and will be able to assist in English. However, consultation prices can be hefty, so international health insurance is highly recommended.

Non-international private hospitals also exist, though their quality of service is less predictable, so it’s best to go on recommendations from locals if planning to visit one. In addition, staff at these facilities may not be able to communicate in English.

Health insurance

Russian citizens and permanent residents can access the public healthcare system. Expats who are employed in Russia make contributions via their salary, which are matched by their employer.

For medical emergencies and complex surgical procedures, medical evacuation to a neighbouring country with more specialised staff and equipment is recommended. Expats should ensure that they are well-covered by their insurance for this possibility.

Pharmacies and medicines

Pharmacies are easy to find in Russia’s main urban hubs, and some stay open 24 hours a day. They are marked by green crosses outside the entrance. In remote rural areas, pharmacies can be close to non-existent but are sometimes found at the local health centre.

Russian pharmaceutical regulations may result in medication being dispensed differently than the way expats are used to. For example, a medication that expats know as prescription-only back home might be readily available over the counter in Russia, and vice versa.

Emergency services

In an emergency, expats can either dial the Russian emergency number, 103, or the general European emergency number, 112. However, the operators manning these lines may not be able to speak English, so it’s a good idea to have the number of one’s insurance provider and closest hospital on hand for direct contact.

Emergency first-aid on the scene and transport is provided free of charge throughout Russia regardless of citizenship, but for hospital treatment, proof of insurance coverage and ID is needed.

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