Former USSR republics embrace medical tourism


While Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine are becoming known for IVF  and stem cell treatment, other former USSR states have plans for medical and wellness tourism.

Their business comes from Ireland, the UK and a host of better off but more medically expensive Western European countries. Much less talked about is the increasing stream of well-off medical travellers coming from Russia and nearby former USSR satellites; not for cheaper care, but because of the scarcity of good facilities back home.

Armenia is a small, mountainous, landlocked and relatively unknown state of 3 million people. With Turkey to the west and Georgia to the north, Armenia is not easily accessible by any means of transport, and there is poor availability of high standard accommodation. But Armenia has in recent years become a centre of medical tourism, providing visitors with the opportunity of excellent treatment such as laser surgery at a fraction of the price of the same operation in, for example, Germany.A wide range of surgical, cosmetic and dental procedures is on offer. Corrective laser eye surgery is widely available, while in central Yerevan two clinics offer laser hair removal. There is a world-class heart hospital in the Nork district of Yerevan, which performs open-heart surgery for $5000 and has one of the best success rates in the world. IVF treatment is offered, at the Yerevan Center couples from the USA, Holland, Russia and Germany have come to Armenia to get treatment.

American company Stem Cells for Hope (SCFH) is a company engaged in the field of regenerative medicine. This includes ongoing research, development and the treatment of patients with stem cell transplantation therapy. SCFH has established license agreements with medical treatment facilities in Eastern Europe where stem cell transplantation therapy is approved by the appropriate local government agencies. It is a new company, but already offers treatment at facilities in the Ukraine and the Republic of Georgia; and also hopes to expand to other countries soon.

A project in Turkmenistan is intended to become a centre for health tourism. This ecologically clean shore of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea will open its doors to several health resorts, among them a fashionable 12-storey spa hotel, holiday homes and hotels. In the new health centres, foreign visitors will be to improve their health and undergo a course of rehabilitation and spa treatment. The project, with an investment of over $5 billion, offers a wide range of customs and tax privileges. Foreign investors are invited to erect modern houses, sanatoria, health centres, spas, hotels, as well as cultural and entertainment centres in the tourist zone. The seaside Turkmenbashi international airport is under construction and will be a key transit point for the air route from Europe to South and Southeast Asia. The seaport and marina will be fully redesigned.

The number of medical tourists within the former Eastern bloc is not known, but local experts suggest that including numbers coming from Asia and Western Europe, it is more than in some countries widely regarded as important medical tourism destinations.



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