Sunday, December 20, 2009

In Defense of Russian Medicine

I read an interesting blog post recently challenging someone's advice to those traveling in Russia.

She advised foreigners to avoid Russian hospitals; he suggested that she was being a little too judgmental, and went on to defend Russian medicine.

I reviewed a book last year that offered great insight into the Russian approach toward medicine.

I would agree that we are too quick to judge, and too quick to fear what for many people here is considered normal. In many ways the conditions are less comfortable than desired. But is the care any less effective? Mistakes are made, but do they exceed the mistakes made by U.S. doctors?

I agree that travelers should avoid landing in the hospital, but not because the care is inadequate. The main reason is that it is different from what you would expect at home. It's hard to be sick and experiencing culture shock at the same time. If it does happen to you, the best thing is to cooperate with the doctors and try to "relax" as much as possible and let them do their job. Of course if you're not deathly ill, you could try to be patient and just wait until you get home.


  1. My husband was ill the last time we were in Russia and he had great care! We were impressed with how easily he was seen and how thorough the doctors were.

    A funny story - friends adopted a little girl (Julia) with serious heart problem. She'd had a couple of surgeries in Russia and needed another. Of course her adoptive parents were more than anxious to get her out of Russia to "good US medicine"! I hadn't quite realized how much of a prejudice we all had until I heard from my friend Alla in Moscow. Alla, who volunteered at the orphanage, had accompanied Julia to the clinic in Moscow where her last surgery took place, and of course had communicated with the doctors during that time. For this reason we'd asked Alla to get all the information she could about Julia's condition and previous treatment. When she contacted the surgeon and explained her mission this doctor was SO UPSET!!! Leaving Russia for the unproven and irregular care that she would get in the US - crazy!!! She should have her final surgery in Moscow if they cared about her at all!

    For the first time I saw how absurdly prejudiced WE sounded!

  2. This has reminded me of something. Back in 2000 I got extremely sick, while woking for one company in Ohio. I was on the road, all the way in Michigan, when I realized that something was wrong either with my stomach or appendix. The latter happened to be the case. Anyway, to make the long story short, I drove myself to the ER and told them that something was wrong with me.

    I had to wait for about 30 minutes before they actually talked to me again. Then, it took another 30 minutes and a phone call to my boss (I had to make the call myself) to make sure my insurance was ok. Keep in mind I was deathly ill.

    Then I waited another hour before they gave me a shot of some pain killer. Another 30 minutes later they took an X-ray and soon after they told me that my appendix was ruptured and that I needed an immediate surgery.

    As you can tell it took a long time before they actually got down to the business. I could have died. As a matter of fact, the surgeon came to see me the following morning after the surgery and this was his first question to me: Why are you still alive?

    I said, what do you mean? He said, you had pus and other things floating in your stomach. Some people's bodies can't handle this.

    So, I guess I was fortunate to stay alive.

    The point is the American health care, in general, stinks. I do not agree, necessarily, with what the current administration is doing with it, but something has to be done. It's no better than in most countries. If you have tons of money, of course it is a great system, but if not - your are out of luck.

  3. I think there is a misconception that a bright and shiny hospital means they have good care, and vice versa.

    With health problems, sometimes what makes the difference is getting treated in time. And that often doesn't happen in the U.S., because of the red tape and insurance issues. You have to have a referral to receive certain services; etc.

    I still believe that U.S. medicine is fairly advanced, and that the hygienic conditions are good, but as far as what it takes to get treated...not always worth it.


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