Latvia: A cosmetic surgery tourism destination

 

Riga is the capital of Latvia, and hoping to attract tourisms that want cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery can be 40 per cent cheaper in the Baltic state than in Western Europe. The authorities see encouraging the industry as a quick way of getting a new image for the city, which has suffered heavily from Latvia’s economic collapse. Nils Usakovs, the mayor of Riga says, “We want more tourists, more British, coming here for cosmetic surgery or for dental services, and the prices will be considerably lower.”

The drive for medical tourists is being led by Dr Janis Zarzeckis, one of Latvia’s leading cosmetic surgeons, who says that the move has the extra bonus of keeping doctors and nurses in the country, rather than seeing them follow those who have left to earn more. Wages in Latvia have been dramatically cut and taxes raised as the country struggles to reduce spending and repay its national debt. Cosmetic surgeons are now getting fewer local patients, so badly need foreign ones. Dr Zarzeckis specialises in facelifts, eye surgery and breast implants.; from treating one foreign patient a month five years ago, he now has one a week, one in three from Britain.

Whether cut-price cosmetic surgery and dental treatment is enough fot Latvia to compete with established medical tourism destinations,and the host of newcomers and hopefuls, is an open question. There is nothing wrong with the price, or the qualifications and expertise of the health professions. But the U.S. Department of State reports that medical care in Latvia continues to improve, but falls short of Western standards. According to the Department of State, it is not lack of trained medical professionals, but that economic problems mean clinics lack state of the art equipment and facilities. It does say that dental care is good in Riga.

Funding from the Riga city authorities has enabled a group of eight medical companies to join together and form  Baltic Care that has opened an office for consultations in London, and plans another in Stockholm. Baltic Care is an alliance of leading private healthcare clinics, which will effectively and professionally create individual healthcare programmes in Riga. The alliance consists of top specialists from Latvia and the other Baltic States using state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment methods that comply with European Union standards. It uses a local travel company and the national airline to offer travel and accommodation packages.

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