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Lappeenranta maternity ward struggles to attract Russian patients

Not a single Russian patient was treated at the South Karelia Central Hospital's maternity unit so far this year.

Synnytyssali odottamassa synnyttäjää.
An empty bed in Lappeenranta's maternity ward. Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

The South Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote) has been unsuccessful in attracting patients from Russia to its Lappeenranta maternity ward, despite attempts to ramp up marketing for the service after the long decline of Finland's birth rate.

Contact between Eksote and its maternity programme's main focus point in St. Petersburg has also fallen silent, the South Karelia Central Hospital announced.

The health care district said in early 2019 that it would rely on Russian health tourism to keep the maternity unit's doors open. At least three births per week would be needed for the ward to stay open.

Eksote health and elder care service chief Tuula Karhula said one reason for the lack of expecting Russian customers in Lappeenranta is that the Hyvinkää hospital some 200 km to the west has been able to receive patients in spite of ongoing renovations. It is also able to offer the same maternity service for the same 10,000-euro fee. The difference is that patients in Hyvinkää do not need to check in one month before their expected date of delivery, or stay on after giving birth, which Eksote requires.

"Previous queries about maternity services in Lappeenranta have not been followed by any action. Apparently there is little awareness of this option," Karhula said.

Future of maternity ward unclear

Karhula added that she was "not surprised" at Russians staying away, as the process of marketing the maternity service has taken much longer than originally anticipated.

Eksote announced the launch of its maternity service campaign in August, 2018, but the programme did not start until several months later.

Eksote and private hospital Hyksin Ltd came to an agreement in early 2019, with Hyksin handling most of the marketing on social media, at trade fairs in Russia and on board international trains.

"We've done some of our own, too," Karhula said.

As no maternity patients from Russia have used the service over the past nine months, Eksote will have to enter talks with Hyksin Ltd to decide what to do with the Lappeenranta ward.

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