August 31st, 2020

// COVID-19 Pandemic Has Not Stopped Canadians From Traveling to Lithuania for Joint Replacement

COVID-19 Pandemic Has Not Stopped Canadians From Traveling to Lithuania for Joint Replacement


Pandemic has not stopped Canadians from traveling to orthopaedic surgery clinics in Lithuania. Most of these medical tourists come from the province of Alberta. There patients wait for more than a year to have orthopaedic surgeries, while government plans to make waiting times shorter are stuck.

August 31st, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Canadian government recommends its citizens to avoid non-essential travel abroad. But medical tourists seeking joint replacement apparently consider their travels essential. As soon as borders with Europe were re-opened in July, orthopaedic patients from Canada came back to Lithuanian orthopaedic clinics. The chief surgeon of Nordothopaedics clinic, the leading international orthopaedic surgery center in Kaunas, Lithuania, said that the number of incoming Canadian patients is not lower than before the lockdown.

"Five patients from Canada came to us in August," stated Prof Šarūnas Tarasevičius, chief surgeon at Nordothopaedics clinic. "It is a very high number, if one considers the distance patients have to travel. Patients say they choose to travel long distances because of the unbearable waiting times at home."

He pointed out that half of all Canadian patients come from the province of Alberta, which has been struggling with long wait times for decades. Waiting for orthopaedic surgeries takes particularly long—the median waiting time between the visit to the general practitioner and the surgery was 62.5 weeks in 2019. Due to an almost complete absence of private healthcare, residents of Alberta have no alternatives in Canada.

Presently the Albertan government has taken steps to make waiting times shorter. The new laws allowing for partial privatization of medical services, including orthopaedic surgery, are under discussion, but they meet strong resistance from political opposition and society. The pandemic has caused additional delays of healthcare reforms and the recent private initiative to build a new orthopaedic surgery clinic in Alberta has also caused public controversy.

While discussion on changes is stuck, joint replacement patients are compelled to wait for surgeries. According to Prof Tarasevičius, their wait is very painful. Most need painkillers, and wear and tear of joints inhibits movement. Long waiting may also lead to further problems: a recent study indicates that 90% of patients wait too long for joint replacement surgeries, which often results in a loss of mobility and deteriorating health.

As Canadian patients themselves testify, waiting times have become too long for them even to consider.

"After a complete hip replacement was recommended by my family doctor, I haven't even gotten in to see the orthopedist surgeon to get on the waiting list," said Brent Stradeski, a 58-year-old Albertan. "Might be a year to three years until an actual surgery! I am a very active person and I could not wait that long. At Nordorthopaedics clinic the entire crew and staff were absolutely wonderful, professional and very caring. Two weeks after the surgery I was at home safe and feeling better than one could have imagined."

Mr. Stradeski applied for hip replacement at Nordorthopaedics clinic in May. His surgery took place in July—as soon as Lithuanian borders became open for travelers from Canada.

Most patients of Nordorthopaedics clinic appreciate quality and professionalism, which first of all depends on the experience of the chief surgeon. In his 15-year-long career Prof Tarasevičius has conducted more than 2000 joint replacement surgeries and co-authored over 150 scientific articles. The clinic offers hip and knee replacement packages. The packages include a 7-day or a 14-day recovery in Druskininkai. The hip replacement package with a 7-day recovery starts at €7,500, while the knee replacement package with a 7-day recovery starts at €7,530.

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Nordorthopaedics is a private clinic in Kaunas, Lithuania, part of Nordclinic, offering high-quality services and focusing on foreign patients. It is equipped with modern diagnostic and surgical facilities. Medical professionals at the clinic speak fluent English and show personal attention to every patient.


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