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Beauty investigated

By Inese Timuka . 27.08.2009

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Beauty has become a universal brand and more and more of us are not squeamish about going under the surgeon’s knife.  

Medicine has a long tradition in Latvia and these days a broad range of options are available for treatments. At the same time, beauty has become a universal brand and more and more of us are not squeamish about going under the surgeon’s knife. Plastic surgery clinics in Riga offer a plethora of surgical and non-surgical treatments and techniques to improve people’s appearance and functionality. Undertaken in an appropriate way with experienced plastic surgeons, the results can be positive and beneficial.

In total there around 25 plastic surgeons practicing in Riga, providing procedures that are of excellent quality, not least because most specialists have experience gained from professional programs in other European countries and the USA.
Private clinics are fully equipped with the most modern medical equipment and knowledgeable staff who speak foreign languages. As a result, doctors have all they need to perform expert surgery and stay up-to-date on the latest breakthroughs.
Currently, the percentage of medical tourists within the total number of visitors to Latvia is not listed separately, but experts say that because of the relatively low cost, an accessible destination, and the good quality of medical services, the number of consumers is growing every year.
“Clinics in Latvia are able to offer short waiting times and ensure quality in line with the highest European standards. Also, Riga is convenient for air traffic,” said Dr Jānis Ģīlis, who has been practicing plastic and reconstructive surgery since 1985.
“Medical tourism is based on the fact that people get something good out of it, for example obtaining high-quality treatment and service at a lower price than in the customer’s home country.”
Additionally as a pro for medical tourism, Ģīlis mentioned the opportunity to carry out an operation combined with travel or sightseeing. He adds that there is also the privilege of privacy as colleagues and business partners won’t have a clue about the planned operation or treatment, but may notice the positive changes in appearance when the customer returns home. Medical tourists from the UK, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia are already the most regular visitors at Ģīlis’ clinic.

What’s on offer?
The treatment trends in Riga in terms of popularity go together with those around Europe. For a couple of years now, nose improvements and hand surgery have been the most popular procedures with men, while women prefer breast enlargements and facelifts.
Body reshaping, which includes liposuction, tummy tucks, arm reduction surgery and buttock lifts, accounts for the rest. Plastic surgeon Dr Jānis Zaržeckis told us that it is not only the technical equipment used in Riga that has very high standards; doctors are highly competent and specialized too, mainly because they benefit from a lot of practice and use the same materials and implants than medical staff do in the rest of the world.
But, essentially, the prices are lower yet the service is more personal. “For example,” he continues, “in the USA staying in hospital after the operation is extremely expensive, often US$1,500 a night, and a lot of patients are sent home by taxi while still under narcosis.”
Dr Zaržecki’s own clinic is located short ride out of Riga and includes all amenities both for medical equipment and for patients’ comfort.
“We hear many references saying that nowhere in Europe is the service as attentive as it is here. In Latvia, it is a standard that the doctor is personally involved during the healing process.”
The next most important factor is the price: “Treatments in Latvia are perhaps half the price, a few a little bit more, a few a bit less. The biggest differences in price are with the USA, where a facelift costs around US$20,000. I’m ready to do it for US$5,000.”
His colleague, the doctor and plastic surgeon Andrejs Kremņevs, who has been practicing both in the west and in the east, told us that in general plastic surgeons around the world are equal. Every one of them has two hands and a scalpel.
“Unfortunately, in Latvia nobody produces medical implements or implants, so basically we use the same items. But as for our knowledge, Latvian doctors visit the same congress as other doctors, and if some novelty has been invented the message is spread in every congress.”
He added that in surgery novelties do not occur that often and the latest considerable procedure that was invented was liposuction, 20 years ago.
“We offer treatments for everyone who wants to improve the way they look, starting from reducing porosity and wrinkles to bottulin injections,” said Dr Juliet Ulmane, owner and founder of the Ulmanu Private Clinic of Dermatology and Aesthetic Medicine located in a quite neighborhood in central Riga.
She said, naturally, that her clinic offers medical and aesthetical treatments of the highest standards. The trends show that Botox, which is used to smooth forehead lines and eliminate crows' feet and other lines, are the favorite non-surgical cosmetic procedure. At the Ulmanu clinic they offer hyaluronic acid injections too.
“Even if a patient is here for a conference or business trip we can offer various types of treatments to them, for example to painlessly remove any wrinkles. However, Botox injections are the fastest treatment and there won’t be telling evidence on the patient’s face when they return home.”

For good results
“Latvia is a small country, so none of the doctors or nurses here can afford a bad reputation. Everyone knows each other. Nobody can play games with their own name,” Dr Ulmane said.
“Most doctors will gladly disclose their education and experience in the medical field, if a client is interested.” Dr Zaržeckis said to us.
Dr Ģīlis emphasizes how the good results of plastic surgery are determined largely by a good and honest collaboration between surgeon and patient, the adequate desires of the patient and the doctor’s professionalism.
Although they rarely happen, there could be surgical complications that can later be adjusted, but the patient should be well informed about these possibilities. But Dr Kremņevs stressed that every patient is evidence for his work. “I always tell my patients that after the operation they are my business cards. There are cases where after a serious nose operation it still looks a bit awry, but patients are still delighted with the results compared to how they looked before.”
He added: “I am personally interested that my patients are happy and satisfied with the result.”
All doctors interviewed for this article allow their patients at the beginning to send in their photos and discuss the possible treatments, since for health travelers to just drop in for advice is not that easy. If the patient agrees to treatment after correspondence, they set an appointment and arrange a trip to Riga.
“If a patient comes to Riga on a Monday, we immediately do some tests and the operation the next day. The patient can then leave hospital on the Wednesday and the following Monday or Tuesday come in again for a post-operation check-up,” Dr Kremņevs said when asked how long a patient should stay in Riga.
Dr Ulmane said that she keeps in touch with patients by email if necessary during the process of recovery, not just before treatment. The key factor at her clinic, she added, is quality, and doctors are genuinely interested in their patients’ needs so that they can do their job without any unnecessary rush. The number of her patients has tripled this summer.

Why don’t we hear about it?

Unfortunately, it must be said that although medicine in Latvia meets the highest international standards, medical tourism so far hasn’t been recognized as an export sector and hasn’t been properly promoted abroad, either by the government or by doctors themselves.
Dr Zaržeckis explained: “To achieve success in the area of medical tourism, doctors need a little help from the government. Our doctors are excellent; we just need to gift-wrap them nicely and perform wider marketing activities to get the message out that medicine is good here. Then to combine as a team the best local doctors and highlight them. It’s true that patients who come here are delighted with the results and afterwards recommend us to friends, family and colleagues.”
Some good news in this area is that Dr Zaržeckis and a couple of colleagues have started to work on a project in the medical tourism sphere, and he forecasts that by Christmas this year the first results should appear.
Until then, all our experts admit that Riga is a good and affordable destination that can easily be combined with medical treatments. However, so far only word of mouth has created the demand for Latvian plastic surgery, spreading information that Latvian surgeons are highly experienced and talented and that plastic surgery prices are low. Even as prices continue to rise, expect to see a greater influx of Brits, Americans and other nationalities into the Baltics in search of affordable care that doesn’t sacrifice quality or service.

Raimonda 17.12.2009 17:23

Sakiet ka var pierakstities pie dr.Kremnova ? kur vins pienem savus pacientus?



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