Medical tourism from Russia to Finland is growing
Even public hospitals are interested in foreign patients
Publicly funded hospitals in Finland have are showing interest in caring for health tourists coming from Russia.
Many hospitals are considering different ways of getting Russian citizens to travel across the border in order to obtain medical care in Finland.
So far, medical tourists have largely ended up in private hospitals, but municipal hospitals are also interested in new patients. Among measures under consideration to make it easier for foreign customers to find medical care in Finland is the establishment of a patient agency.
”We are interested in the matter”, says Pentti Itkonen, Managing Director of the South Karelia Social and Health Care District (EKSOTE).
The Pirkanmaa Hospital District is mulling over the idea together with EKSOTE.
The planned patient agency would organise travel for both patients and their accompanying family members or friends.
Another possibility would be to combine medical procedures with ordinary holidaying. EKSOTE is investigating a possibility to be involved in a company which would offer medical services in the old Tiuru hospital located near the Rauha tourist resort in Lappeenranta.
At the same time, the city of Jämsä is contemplating, the possibility to offer medical services for tourists visiting the Himos Ski Resort.
Today, medical tourism to Finland is still rather scant. One of the forerunners is the private oncological hospital Docrates in Helsinki, with one in five patients coming from abroad. Most of them are Russians.
Foreign patients are not a common sight in hospitals owned by taxpayers. Coxa, a hospital specialised in joint replacements in Tampere, receives a few dozen foreign patients a year, who pay for their treatment by themselves. This year, about 30 to 50 Russian women are expected to give birth at the Kymenlaakso Central Hospital in Kotka.
If all wishes come true in various parts of Finland, the number of health tourists coming to Finland will be much higher in a few years. Russia would clearly be the most interesting country in this respect.
”There is not much interest in Finland in other parts of Europe”, Itkonen notes.
For private hospitals seeking customers abroad is a natural part of business. But in the public sector, it is not self-evident that hospitals should also treat medical tourists.
”No doubt, this is an important ethical issue”, says Rauno Ihalainen, Director of the Pirkanmaa Hospital District.
”I do not see any problem in this, as long as we also take care of our normal duties and obligations”, Ihalainen adds.
There are large variations in Finnish hospitals pertaining to the pricing for services offered.
Tampere’s Coxa wishes to make profit out of the services offered to its foreign customers, while in Kotka Russian patients are charged only the actual costs of care.
Childbirth in the Kymenlaakso Central Hospital usually costs approximately EUR 2,500. Chief Medical Officer Ermo Haavisto defends the practice of charging only the cost price by saying that it is no big business.
According to Haavisto, the price will be higher in the future, if attracting women to come and give birth at their maternity unit is turned into a more permanent part of the central hospital’s operation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Cancer – a new growth industry (20.9.2011)
Specialist skills attract foreign customers to Helsinki’s private clinics (14.4.2008)
Finland’s first private cancer and radiotherapy clinic to be set up in Helsinki (10.5.2007)
Thousands of undocumented foreigners have few options for medical treatment (28.9.2011)
Secret clinic cares for undocumented aliens in Helsinki (24.5.2011)
Coxa Hospital for Joint Replacement