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Medical tourism in Latvia

By Inese Timuka . 25.09.2009

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A rather different type of tourism is gaining in popularity around the world – medical tourism, in which people combine medical care with a trip abroad. It’s catching on in Latvia too.

Healthcare in Latvia is divided into public and private sectors. Both provide medical procedures that are of excellent quality, not least because most specialists have experience gained from professional exchange programs in other European countries and the USA.
For patients, an increasing number of cheap flights, friendly prices on overnight stays in hotels and other factors make Latvia an inexpensive and attractive alternative destination for medical and dental treatments. But the range of health treatments on offer is a lot wider than that. 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 are growing little by little every year.

What’s on offer?

In Riga you can find all kinds of doctors, ranging from pediatricians to neurosurgeons and plastic surgeons, and there are a great number of professional, privately operating medical centers including small private practices and specialized clinics as well as state-owned hospitals – more than 150 medical establishments in total.
One well-established medical center dedicated to the needs of foreigners and diplomats, the Diplomatic Service Medical Center, opened 10 years ago. Among their regular clients are staff from the French and English embassies. All employees speak English and almost all doctors and nurses can communicate also in Russian and in some cases German, Italian and French. Dr Lejniece, the center’s director, emphasizes that they provide internationally accepted medical examinations and a wide range of treatments. "At our centre you will find consultants who are internationally recognized, and even the Latvian President's Chancery, many foreign embassies (eg., American, German, Japanese) and foreigners living in Riga refer to us positively!” says Dr Mâris Andersons, chairmain of the board of the ARS medical society. "ARS has been in the market for 20 years. We can guarantee in most cases that a full check-up, diagnostics and treatment can start on the same day,” Dr Andersons said. “We have patients who come to us from abroad once a year to do magnetic echo or computer tomography.”

“Highly skilled specialists together with the very latest equipment make a unique combination in the Baltic region.”

The recession has already made several changes in the medical professional, in a positive sense. Most experts confirm that specialists have become more available for their patients and their schedules are not as tight as they were only a year-and-a-half ago. The ARS itself offers potential patients to fill out the inquiry form online, so that they can make a package of treatments before arrival to save time.
Mâris Revalds, chairman of the board of the country’s biggest private medical center, Veselibas centrs 4 (Health Center 4), points out that in Latvia you can find a unique price-quality ratio. “We can provide treatments of western European quality at eastern European prices!” he says.

“We stick to our commandment. If a patient has come to us, for sure we will help! It is important that our patients know we are available 24/7, that they will hear a ‘second opinion’ from local and foreign specialists if needed, and that we always respect our clients and their right to privacy.” According to Assoc. Prof. MD Juris Purins, owner and founder of one of Riga’s oldest privately founded clinic, the Neurosurgery Private Clinic, there are patients from everywhere – from Sweden, the UK, Lithuania, Russia, even sometimes all the way from the USA and United Arab Emirates.Asked what makes his clinic so popular from so far away, he said: “Because really good doctors are working here; we are famous because of our work, not for personal labels. But the reasons for medical tourism come down mainly to two things – the high cost and long queues for medical services and scheduledoperations in their home countries.”Especially during an economic downturn, it is advantageous to combine the pleasant with the useful – not just to see the country or the region but also to see a doctor even if only for a preventive measure.
Una Bruna, executive director of the Latvian American Eye Center, agrees that it is a great idea to include a visit to the doctor while in Latvia simply for a quick check-up. She encourages this at her center, where it is safe to do glaucoma and cataract operations for a friendly price. It was the first private eye clinic in the Baltic states to provide
specialist eye treatment for inpatients and outpatients. It was founded by the American professor John Joseph McDermott 16 years ago.

However, far more popular products for medical tourists in Latvia are plastic surgery and dentistry. Vanag’s Dental Clinic was one of the first private dental clinics to be established after Latvia regained independence. “Evidence of the high quality of service is the fact that more than 80% of first time visitors to the clinic become permanent patients”, emphasized Dr. Vanags. The success of his clinic, he adds, is based on strong cooperation between doctor and patient and a firm sense of responsibility. “Our services are pricier by local standards, but health is invaluable. The economic downturn will pass, but if you don’t take care of your health at the moment, later you will pay double if not more.”

The Ulmanu Private Clinic of Dermatology and Esthetic Medicine is located in a quite neighborbood in central Riga and offers medical treatments of the highest standards. All of the doctors at the clinic have experience abroad. Dr. Juliet Ulmane, who has trained in France and Russia, says that that the clinic's main activities are dermatology and plastic surgery. "Even if a patient is in town just for a couple of days, we can offer various types of treatments, for example to painlessly remove any wrinkles."


Manipulations and techniques

The majority of clinics in Latvia are equipped with modern and internationally accepted medical devices that anyone can hope to get and doctors improve their knowledge on regular basis.
“Compared to European countries we are never less than equal, and sometimes we leave them behind,” says Dr Kaspars Feldmanis who works together with his colleague Dr Evija Rodke in his clinic for esthetic and plastic surgery on the outskirts of the Latvian capital.
The clinic has been built especially for the purposes of plastic surgery and offers all kinds of procedures. “This is one of the reasons why we created our own clinic – in this case patients feel more comfortable, safer, more confidential, preserved from other people’s attention,” Dr Rodke explains. “We have successful cooperation with a Norwegian company, which sends a lot of patients our way. It’s no secret that prices for treatments haven’t reached the average levels of the European Union, yet the quality meets really high standards.”
Dr Feldmanis adds: “We work flexibly, trying to meet the needs of our customers.” Dr Rodke nods, adding: “In Latvia, it is a standard that the doctor is personally involved during the healing process. We hear many references saying that nowhere in Europe is the service as attentive as it is here.” Health Center 4 uses the latest equipment, purchasing new devices as soon as they are produced. They constantly renew their equipment, selling the old and buying the new.

Latvia – an inexpensive and attractive alternative destination for medical and dental treatments.

Vitolds Jurkevics, chairman of the board at the Hospital of Traumatology and Orthopedics, which could be considered the leading clinic for orthopedics in the Baltics, and Spine surgeon Artis Gulbis claim that the diplomats and expats who have visited the hospital are absolutely content with the doctors’ work. Gulbis adds that he recently operated on a patient who had previously been unsuccessfully operated on in Switzerland. They said that in their operations they use implants of the highest class, like the best clinics in Europe, and that the techniques of operations are at an even higher level. The center’s doctors are often invited abroad for probe operations.
Additionally, Dr Gulbis said that in Latvia doctors are highly qualified at a young age. “In the UK, doctors in their thirties have just finished their residencies, but at this age our doctors already have around 10 years’ standing in their profession. We are more enthusiastic, more willing to work and include new techniques in our daily routine. The only thing foreign patients complain about is the public transport.”


How much?

“The prices in Latvia certainly compete with those in neighboring Estonia, Finland and Germany,” says Dr Lejniece from the Diplomatic Service Medical Center. “Besides that we have monthly special offers for our patients – we’ve had a ‘month of the healthy tooth’, for example, and a ‘month for expecting mothers’. Also we have planned to issue VIP client cards in cooperation with Health Centre 4.”
Usually, experts say, there is no problem with insurance. Usually patients pay first and then go back to their insurance companies, or they have direct agreements. Dr Lejniece says that her health center has agreements with AXA and SOS International and so far there haven’t been problems.
But all experts recommend first finding out whether the insurance company covers such expenses.

Price comparison of typical dental treatment costs
                                    UK price € Latvia price €
Tooth extraction         128         42
Root Canal Treatment 285         125
Porcelain Veneer        715         255

Marketing medicine

Although medical tourism is growing in popularity each year and the services provided tend to meet the highest standards, we don’t actually hear much about it. Marketing activities to attract new patients are not currently carried out in Latvia. In turn, most doctors think that such services are hardly likely to promote classical tourism services if medical treatments are associated with known health risks to the patient. “There have been so many discussions on how to promote Latvia as a destination for medical tourism, but that’s because it’s only theoretical. In reality, I think we are experiencing a lack of luck and no orientation in the long term,” says Dr Maris Revalds.
“Those who come here have found information about us by themselves, or heard good recommendations from friends or just take a spontaneous decision to visit a doctor while in Latvia.”

“We can provide treatments of western European quality
at eastern European prices!”

Also, it has to be said that some doctors are not particularly interested in promoting their services. The owner of the dental clinic Electa, Dr Jelena Saleniece, says that the she would be delighted to have more foreign clients, assuring that her best business card is the work she has done so far – patients who are glad to smile again with newly healthy and good-looking teeth.
Peteris Laucis, head of the Latvian Association of Plastic Surgeons, who also is working at The Centre of Plastic and Reconstructive Microsurgery of Latvia located at the University hospital “Gailezers” presented to RigaNOW! quite impressive pictures, showing how his clinics improves breast and belly, making people more bold & beautiful.
Laucis admits that Latvian plastic surgeons are known abroad and his association guarantees the quality of the work of association members.


Still room for growth

One way for patients to find the right clinics abroad nowadays is that there are so many Latvians working abroad, they tell their friends and colleagues about the medical treatments they have experienced in Latvia – word-of-mouth promotion. Dr Purins, for one, says he believes that there is great potential for Latvia in the near future.
Doctors Jurkevics and Gulbis from the Hospital of Traumatology and Orthopedics say they have other ideas on how to inform more potential patients abroad. They suggest that doctors take part in official Latvian delegations to foreign countries to publicize the expert medical services available in Latvia.

The good news is that the potential for medical tourism in Latvia is very high. Remember that this country is a part of the EU, and all medical services are of the high standards. Add to that the young and professional doctors and language fluency in both English and Russian and you can clearly see a bright future for the treatment of foreigners – and all for a fraction of the price in western Europe. Finally Jûrmala, with its mild climate, the sea and the pine trees, is ideal for post-surgery rehabilitation. So medicine and relaxation welcomes new clients to Latvia. Try it out yourself!

Anne Nenseth 20.06.2011 12:05

I would like to ge in contact with one of your plastic surgeoans - Peter Lausic.
My mail adress is


John 20.11.2011 22:49

Why so cheap? In I read a differnet story


Reply on John

Anna 02.11.2012 21:38

I lived in Latvia for 6 years and still going there for medical treatments as to be honest NHS in UK is rubbish (sad truth)
The prices shown are higher then normal prices in Latvia.For root canal treatment I'v paid 65 lats.Porcelan bridge 140
lats.Breast enlargment 1600 lats(incl 1 night stay in hospital) Try to use translator and you will find a loats cheaper
Good luck! :)

yfunzodok 30.10.2014 07:08

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international economy tends to integration, industry competition will develop into even more intense. Yet for any extended
time , in industry development and cultivation stage of private SMEs , resulting from their own limited capital improvement
is severely constrained financial bottlenecks . The more common to incorporate sewing gear a


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