Russians flock to border city for medical treatment

In recent years, many Russians made medical trips to China.

It took Dmitrii three days — via two air flights and a cross-border bus — to see his dentist and have his teeth repaired.

But for the 32-year-old Russian who lives in a small village near the Arctic Circle, the recent trip to Hunchun, a small Chinese city on the border, was worth the effort.

“The dentists here are skillful and charge a reasonable price,” said Dmitrii, who spent about 10,000 yuan (US$1,587) repairing his decayed teeth. “In my hometown, the same treatment would cost me more than triple that price.”

Besides the considerable cost difference, Dmitrii also liked not having to wait long for an appointment with the doctors. “In Hunchun, you can just walk in the clinic and get the treatment immediately,” he said.

Artem Kechin, who came to China with Dmitrii, went to Hunchun’s traditional Chinese medicine hospital for a spine treatment. He planned to have an operation the next time he visits the Jilin Province city.

“In Russia, more and more patients are embracing Chinese dentists and TCM. Seeing doctors, along with traveling and shopping, is what draws Russians to China,” Kechin said.

Over the past five years, an annual average of 300,000 Russians have traveled to Hunchun, many of them medical tourists. This influx of patients has driven up the number of local dentist clinics to nearly 100.

At the TCM hospital, massage practitioner An Sheng is busying treating Russian patients.

“We treat around 50 Russian patients every month,” he said. “Massage, moxibustion and cupping are especially popular among Russians who suffer from spondylosis, slipped disk, diabetes and high blood pressure.”

To better serve foreign patients, the local government has set up a center to collect and provide information on hospital charges and introduced a rating system for hospitals.

Many hospitals have also hired Russian translators and set up designated areas to attend to Russian patients.

Besides treating Russian patients, medical institutions in Hunchun are also looking to promote TCM in Russia. “To meet the high Russian demand for TCM, we will strengthen our cooperation with Russian hospitals in the future,” said An.

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