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The standard of healthcare in Russia is not of a level that most expats would be accustomed to. It is currently undergoing development after its decline the end of the Soviet era.
Wherever possible, expats should try to utilise private healthcare in Russia. Private facilities can be exorbitantly expensive, and expats will likely need to organise some form of private health insurance that includes emergency evacuation to elsewhere in Europe.
Public healthcare in Russia
Though once heralded as one of the best healthcare systems in the world and known for world-class medical innovations, public healthcare in Russia today is underfunded and falls well below the standards expected by most expats. Facilities are not of a very high standard, supplies can be scarce, and waiting times are almost always long.
Many of the health professionals in the public system don’t speak English, which can be an issue for expats. Treatment in the public sector is supposed to be free of charge for all Russian citizens and foreigners with permanent residency. However, in the past, there have been reports of doctors withholding treatment unless they receive a bribe.
Private healthcare in Russia
In Russia’s larger cities there are a number of private health centres and clinics, many of which have English-speaking staff. These facilities are generally of a much higher standard than their public counterparts but are also comparably more expensive. Hospitals may also demand cash or credit card payments before providing treatment.
It is vital that expats have adequate health insurance to cover the hefty fees. This can be organised through their employer or independently. Expats should ensure that their insurance covers the specific facility which they would most likely visit, as many policies will only cover specific hospitals and clinics.
No strong relationship exists between price and quality of private healthcare in Russia. The most expensive clinic may not be the best, and it’s advisable to source recommendations from other expats or reputable forums. Expats living in rural Russia will struggle to find internationally recognised private facilities, and may need to travel to the nearest city to receive reliable treatment.
Medicines and pharmacies in Russia
There is a good assortment of pharmacies in Russia. Some of these operate out of larger supermarkets, while some exist as standalone bodies and others are available online as ePharmacies. Larger cities like Moscow will have some 24 hour pharmacies as well as pharmacies with delivery services.
Expats should be sure to learn the generic name of their preferred medications, as brand names may vary from country to country.
Health insurance in Russia
Russian citizens and permanent residents are entitled to free public healthcare under the Russian national healthcare system. Employers and employees finance the fund, contributing a small percentage of their salary to a social tax which then goes into the national healthcare fund.
Healthcare at public facilities in Russia is well below what many expats may be used to, and it’s essential that expats arrange private health insurance before moving to Russia. Many expats choose to travel outside of Russia for serious medical care, and it is important for expats to ensure that any health insurance policy makes provisions for this.
Health concerns in Russia
Safe drinking water is a concern for many expats moving to Russia. While many establishments in the country have their own water filtration systems, it is still recommended that expats opt for bottled water, rather than tap water.
St Petersburg's water system is known for having problems with Giardia, a parasite that can cause unpleasant intestinal infections.
Emergency services in Russia
State ambulance services are available in major Russian cities, although services are often limited. Emergency numbers have been consolidated into a single emergency service which can be reached by dialling 112. A number of private ambulance services are also in operation in Russia.
►For more on healthcare in the capital, including a list of hospitals in the city, see Healthcare in Moscow.
Are you an expat living in Russia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Russia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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