What's in a name?
In a shocking turn of events

Well, I’m in a fever-governed land of psychedelic goats right now, so it seems the appropriate time to write a blog post about medicine in Russia.

A few months ago, I was sick, completely lost my voice, and went to work to teach anyway.  In the middle of last year I broke my arm on Saturday afternoon and was at work Monday morning.  So, if I call in sick to work, I’m sick enough that I expect people to just believe me.

I realised by midday Thursday that this particular sickness was settling in, so emailed work to ask what I do if I need to call in sick.  My centre director called and said that I had to get to a doctor for a medical certificate straight away, and I basically straight-up ignored her: there was no way I was going to be able to leave the house in the condition I was in.  She said that maybe I should call a doctor to me then, but I have no idea how that works, and was far too ill to be motivated.  (On the topic of calling things to oneself, ambulances are free in Russia, so it’s normal for people to call an ambulance for just about anything, from actual life-or-death situations to a common cold.)

After a lot of emails in which I described rather graphically how ill I was, the HR manager called me yesterday afternoon and said that she believed I was ill, and gave me the details of a medical centre if I got any worse.  Hurrah.  Of course, the likelihood of my seeing a doctor here (barring actual problems) is pretty low.  Partly because of the price, and partly because of the quality.

I have no idea what the doctor costs for a normal Russian, but if you’re Western then they basically gouge you, as they assume you can afford it.  I’ve said before that the medical profession is one of the worst-paid in Russia, so not only will you be overcharged if possible, but doctors over-prescribe diagnostic tests and things as they make commissions from referring patients.  As my friend Lana put it, “10 thousand rubles?  I figured I’d just get better.”  (Also, Lana brought me a care package on Thursday = legend).

As far as quality, well.  Lana told me a couple of weeks ago how a non-Russian couple at her workplace are pregnant, and are staying in Russia to have the baby.  I started laughing uncontrollably, as it’s one of the worst ideas i’ve ever heard.  Maternal and infant mortality death rates are of course higher here than in the west, and moreover the experience is… complicated.  One of the Russian families I know in Australia emigrated specifically to have children, as it’s so dangerous here (this was ~15 years ago though, so things have improved somewhat).   It’s not just the danger that made me laugh at this couple though, but the sheer difficulty they’ll face: not only will they be gouged, they’ll have to deal with Russia’s constant contrariness, and they don’t speak Russian.  Worst.  Idea.  Ever.

As I said in my New Years’ post, a guy I know here woke up in hospital one morning after a big night at the staff party.  The way he described it was reminiscent of the prison in Shantaram: there were around 30 guys in this 6-bed room, one toilet to share between all of them (it apparently involved wading through faeces to get there), nurses who were rude to the point of cruelty, filth, and did I forget the bars on the windows?  When he awoke, he wasn’t sure if  he was in prison, an asylum, or a hospital, though he thought it must be one of the first two.  Not a place I want to be..

Ok, that’s about as much coherence as I’m capable of today, so I’m back to bed.  Woot.

What's in a name?
In a shocking turn of events

6 Comments

  1. There is no difference in medical costs for Russians and foreigners, the rate is fixed. All Russians have the insurance provided by employer or local municipality. If you have one you pays nothing for medical service in state clinics. As for your flu case a local would call a therapist who visits him/her at home, then patient visits the therapist in clinic where he/her gets the paper which is the proof of illness. Usually people don’t care about such formalities in the case of well known flu. As we say: one can treat for a flu or ignore the treatment, the result will be the same, a week in a bed. Let the time heal you, a flue is dangerous of aftereffects, don’t rush back to active life while body temperature is not back to normal. If you need food home ask the friends. You swam in ice water so you’ll be fine soon, no doubts.

    1. Dear Oleg,
      Thanks as always for your response. May I ask what part of Russia you live in?
      Sadly while medical costs may theoretically be the same for Russians and foreigners, that hasn’t been the experience of my friends here in St P. As far as insurance, work pays for some particularly poor insurance (it covers almost nothing and I have to pay the first US$120 of any medical bill). I had no intention of going to the doctor for a flu, and happily the fever finally broke a few hours ago – I feel human again (hurrah!).
      L

  2. Hah, I become alerted seeing ‘Dear’. Do Australians use it in the same way as Russian woman would? 🙂 I reside near Moscow. Hope you”ll explore the issue and make a post about medical insurance one day. Your insurance terms sound
    unbelievable terrible. Anyway let’s rely on good luck not needing any insurance 🙂

  3. Wow, I reread the thread and got the feeling you may misinterpret my remark about ‘Dear’. 😉 Just to clarify because I’m not sure in your flluency in Russian. ‘Dear’ is translated in formal calling ‘Уважаемый’. The second literal meaning is ‘Дорогой, -ая’ which is used in greetings. However in а plain chat Russian woman uses ‘Дорогой, -ая’ to express her irritation towards her talk companion. So when RW switches from naked first name in addressing to Dear+name it means she became caustic, and I played on this in my remark. I apologize for being a bore 🙂

    1. Hmmm my reply didn’t post. My Russian’s intermediate (so B1/B2 in the European framework if that helps) but moreover I live here so am used to the ways in which the language is used (ie yes, I knew the stuff you said :)). As I don’t know you I was going for the more formal address, so the equivalent of уважаемый not дорогой, that’s all 🙂

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