Belarus Medical Insurance
The Republic of Belarus is a landlocked country, situated in Eastern Europe, sharing its southern border with Ukraine and North Eastern border with Russia. It is slightly smaller than Great Britain with an area of 207,600 square kilometers, and has a relatively small population of approximately 9.6 million people. The capital city Minsk is the largest city of Belarus; followed by Vitebsk, Gomel, Baranovichi, and Babruysk. The geography of Belarus is quite flat, with one third covered by forested areas. Agriculture and manufacturing are the largest industries in Belarus. In 1991, Belarus declared itself an independent country, following separation from the Soviet Union at the end of the cold war.
In Belarus all citizens and registered long-term residents are eligible to receive free compulsory State funded healthcare. Universal public healthcare in the country covers unlimited visits to a personal primary care physician, preventive care, examinations, and treatments. Private healthcare is also available in the country. The Ministry of Health (MOH) oversees the country’s health service and it governs the Belarus Health Insurance Fund (HIF), which is responsible for collecting the contributions, allocate funds, supervise, and contract healthcare providers.
Belarus has faced many challenges throughout history relating to World War I and II, as well as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in 1986, which resulted in widespread causalities; 135,000 people were displaced and medical repercussions from nuclear fallout have been felt years later. During the Communist rule, the healthcare system was largely neglected which lead to lack of trained staff, modern medical supplies and lower levels of hygiene standards. Although the healthcare system has improved over time, with foreign assistance and the Ministry of Health of Belarus' implementation of WHO initiatives, standards of healthcare are relatively poor when compared to worldwide.
The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 spread radioactive elements across Europe predominantly affecting Belarus. Over the last few decades, cancer rates have increased by one third, particularly thyroid cancer among young children. The event is said to be the world's worst nuclear power accident in history. Food grown in Belarus, such as dairy products and vegetables, may still carry high levels of radiation and should be avoided.
Medical services in Belarus are not easily accessible. Health care facilities are limited, lack modern medical equipment, and expat patients can have difficulty with language barriers. Private health care services have a higher standard of medical care, but like other private facilities worldwide, medical bills are expensive. There are only a few medical facilities in Belarus that are deemed comparable to western standards, and these facilities can also fall short of modern medical equipment and supplies.
Private health care facilities in Belarus are primarily based in the capital city Minsk. The Lode is a large private medical centre based in Minsk and has two additional clinics located in Brest and Grodno. It is staffed with specialty physicians and offers primary healthcare and dentistry services. The Kravira is a British-Belarusian medical centre also located in Minsk and has specialty services in all major areas. The Ecomediservice and Nordin Medical Centre, both within Minsk, offer primary healthcare and specialist services. The Nordin Medical Centre also has a rehabilitation centre equipped with a hydrotherapy pool and gym.
Expats living in Minsk can also travel to the nearby country of Lithuania to receive medical care at the Baltic American Medical and Surgical Clinic within the Vilnius University Antakalnio Hospital. Expats will need to drive approximately two hours by car to reach the clinic situated in the city of Vilnius, and will need a valid visa to re-enter Belarus. This American, privately run facility, offers a wide range of specialty care services. For expats planning a family, the clinic offers a fertility treatment, gynecology, and obstetrics specialists. Modern equipment is supplied for diagnostic and specialty services including surgery.
Belarus may not have the medical equipment or specialty staff to appropriately manage a traumatic accident or serious illness. In the event of a serious health condition, an expat may require emergency evacuation to western Europe, such as Poland and Great Britain. Medicover, a large international private healthcare group, offers modern medical facilities across Poland. The Damian Medical Centre, located in Poland's capital city of Warsaw, also offers high standards of inpatient and specialist services.
Emergency air transportation, as well as private health care facilities world wide, are highly expensive. Expats in Belarus are strongly recommended to obtain an international health insurance plan that includes coverage for emergency evacuation and repatriation services. Expats are recommended medical coverage that extends internationally, so they can receive medical services in Belarus as well as Poland and Great Britain.
Belarus also has a relatively high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and is recognized by the Ministry of Health as a major public health concern in the country. HIV/AIDS prevalence is approximately 0.3 percent, and largely confined to injecting-drug users with recent cases among their partners. Tuberculosis is highly prevalent with 69 cases per 100,000 people, and rising incident rates of multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Belarus is among the priority group of 27 countries recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having one the highest TB prevalence rates worldwide. TB incidence is around five times higher in Belarus, than in Norway and Sweden. The Ministry of Health has applied the recommendations of the Stop TB Strategy and DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course) as initiated by the WHO with hopes that the situation will improve.
Accidents, road injuries and poisoning are among the leading causes of death in Belarus attributing to approximately 11.9 percent of the country's annual deaths. Alcohol abuse is a major health concern within Belarus and the Ministry of Health recognizes its large association with road accidents and mortality.
Expats living in Belarus are also subject to Tick-borne encephalitis, a potentially deadly virus that is transmitted through ticks and affects the nervous system. Trekking through forested areas is a popular leisure activity in Belarus, but it is also an area where infected ticks are commonly found. Expats must thoroughly check for ticks and should always wear long sleeved clothing and insect repellent while visiting forested areas of Belarus. Initially, infected people will develop flu like symptoms which can then progress to encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain. This can cause symptoms including headache, fever, confusion and vomiting. Without immediate medical attention, the conditions can result in coma and death in some cases. Encephalitis patients may require emergency evacuation to a hospital in Poland or Great Britain to receive the high level of medical care that Belarus may not be able provide. It is therefore highly important to have health insurance that covers you for medical evacuation in the case of a medical emergency.
Expats living in Belarus are recommended vaccinations to protect themselves against tick-borne encephalitis, hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, and polio. The incident of rabies cases rose dramatically from 1996 to 2003, particularly in dogs, foxes and wolves. Although the situation has improved, the Ministry of Health Belarus remain on guard with rabies cases reported from time to time.
Emergency protocols should be adopted by residents during the event of an accident, serious illness or criminal offense. To call an ambulance service within Belarus dial 0-3; police department dial 0-2; or fire brigade dial 0-1.
Please contact one of our dedicated advisers today.