Polish hospital

Hospitals in Poland – what are they like – my personal experience with Polish social medical care

The purpose of this post is to describe what a hospital in Poland is like. Maybe you are considering traveling to Poland for a medical procedure, medical tourism as it is called. Or maybe you live in Poland and are afraid of the Hospital because you have herd tales from communist times. Let me assure you Polish hospitals are good. The reason is the doctors and nurses and medical technicians are well trained (I was impressed and would not get that personal care in the USA) and the equipment is modern. The only thing difference is maybe some of the niceties are not there, like flowers in the rooms or something. But medical care in Poland is at a high level and I trust that if you need something done or have a medical emergency, you will be in good hands.

My trip to UJ medical center

I had to go to a Polish hospital the other week because of an accident.  Under the rules of Polish ZUS, which is the social medical insurance, I had to stay 3 days. I think all the testing and scans could have been done in one day or a few hours, but because of the rules, if I go to the Hospital you have to stay, or insurance will not pay. Mind you I pay taxes and pay for this insurance, it is just publically run and rationed. The rules are I am required to stay 3 days, I am fine now, but just needed a  lot of tests. Normally I would not need to stay in a Polish hospital but my case was for some exceptional testing. It was very unusual stuff.

How was my experience at a Polish hospital? Positive and I say without hesitation the medical care is good in Poland. However, the general experience for anyone of staying in any hospital for 3 days is no fun. This not only acts as a disincentive for people who go there for minor things but also for removes the responsibility from the hospital for discharging you too early. However, I do not know if this would be a disincentive in US hospitals as compared to as it is in Polish hospitals. In a Polish hospital everyone simply wants to go home. Maybe it is the same. I have never really been in an American hospital for such a long time. I also think the doctors in the USA send you home as soon as possible to save costs. In Poland they are very careful to check things and make sure everything is fine. It is a different culture. Polish culture is about checking and documenting, American culture is about saving costs.

Polish hospital
This image is from Jagiellonian university medical. This image understates the beauty of Polish hospitals, at least in Krakow. The buildings are grand eloquent buildings with large windows high ceilings, wide corridors and gardens. The Hospitals were build in the 19th century and most have beautiful architecture and feel. You would not find anything like that in an American hospital. I lived across from Harvard medical and the buildings were just concrete blocks.

My case was I simply needed an MRI. I first went to a private facility and paid for it myself. I was about 120 dollars out of pocket. However, the machine I used was new but had weaker magnetic fields. So I needed to get a scan at a University hospital which had a better scanner. But to do this I had to spend 3 boring days in a Polish hospital.

Betting bored and what to do about it – You have know idea how boring it was. I can only imagine how people in the slammer feel. I think the best strategy for bored is either read or simply close your eyes and take trips in your imagination. Really detailed trips that take a long time, imagining every step. But that is another story.

I got a semi private room. In my opinion the conditions were not as foofy as an American hospital, but I had wi-fi Internet and that is all that matters. I do not think it is standard I think I kind of lets just say borrowed a signal. The rooms do not have a TV thank goodness. It would drive me nuts to listen to one all day.

I am married so I have no interest in looking at the Polish nurses, but one of my friends who is not married was delighted at the notion of visiting just for that fact. Polish nurses have a reputation of being beautiful.

But I brought my Eee PC I bought when I was in Florida visiting my folks last year and was able to Skype home anytime I wanted and check my blogs and play chess online. Yes I had Wi-fi high speed Internet in my hospital room.

How was the food? It was fine. Good Polish cooking. But my wife brought in more as I like yogurt and things. But the food is better than most dinners in the USA.

Krakow Poland medical center
Krakow Poland medical center where I was

Is there a language problem at a Polish Hospital?

Do not worry, you will always find someone that speaks English.

I practiced my Polish with the other bored patients but even that lost its excitement after a few hours. Some people speak English, but basic and there is always a doctor who speaks English perfectly as do all the countless medical students walking around in the halls in groups with smiles.

On my wing I was known as ‘the English Patient’. Even though I am really American and Polish.

The meals were traditional Polish cooking, but light. My wife brought homemade chicken soup, which was a big moral boast as were her visits. I told her if I was a dog right now I would be wagging my tales.

Basically the worst thing is the boredom. I mean, besides pacing the halls and surfing the Internet what was I to do. I realized how life is really about your personal connections with people rather than hobbies. I mean I could surf the net, or play computer games all day long and it really is boring.

Poland medical Krakow
Excellent care in Poland

I felt like George in the Seinfeld episode when he was in the hospital, he said when we gets out he will do the whole Zen thing.

Polish Hospital cracow
Grand old buildings like this are a rarity in the USA.

Polish social medicine

Social insurance in Poland is a really nice thing because everything is paid for. However, the reality is I pay for it via the a special medical tax. Also the country runs a deficit as it is often hard to ration health care. This is the big problem. So when I put my libertarian hat on, I say, it is more efficient when the government does not manage it. I believe this. But when I put my social hat on, I say health care can not be rationed based on the size of the car you drive. I think Polish doctors less into money than American doctors and they are entering medicine for different reason. US doctors want to serve, the public also but it does not feel the same 100%. It is a little more ego in the USA.

Polish Hospital Kraków
Brownstone buildings from a more elegant time

Now remember, Poland has a two tier system, private and public so you have a choice in most cases. So we have private medical care really cheap and very foofy.  But it is only really the hospitals that are 100% public. And in some cases like mine it is the only way you can access the care you need.

Polish Hospital Krakow Poland
Old buildings modern equiptment

Poland had communism so of course it does not have the niceties of an American hospital but in my opinion it has very good doctors. Further, the buildings are very elegant and large. They were build at the turn of the last century. High ceilings, wide corridors and elegant design and gardens I do not see in American standard concrete hospitals.

The equipment in a Polish hospital from what I can see is the same as an American hospital. Everything is high tech. Norway grants has also donated a lot of money to Polish hospitals.

Polish hospital – This is a top medical and research hospital in Krakow, it has an English page like most Polish medical websites.

Polish Hospital University medical
This building is connected with university medical

Conclusion: should you be concerned about your trip to a Polish hospital?
If you need to go to the hospital in Poland do not worry. Remember if you do not want a procedure or test you can refuse. They will want to give you every test under the sun, think critically and talk with the doctors there if you feel for some reason something is wrong or not for you. The bottom line is the doctors are excellent, conditions are fine, even though Polish people like to complain about little things. It is not true, Polish medical care is excellent and at a high level mostly because of the doctors. Meals are on the light side but fine. Bring a lot of books or better yet an e-reader or netbook. Ask me any questions if you have any about getting a procedure done or medical care in Poland.






18 responses to “Polish hospital”

  1. Laurie

    I plan on retiring early to Poland. I will be on fixed income. How would I be able to get medical coverage if not working? Is it possible to pay a certain amount monthly to ensure the best medical care available?

    1. Mark Biernat

      Yes everyone is covered in some way in Poland. They just have to fingurre out your status. Are you a Polish citizen? Is this a Polish pension? You do have an option of buying ZUS medical coverage but I need more details.
      Medical care now in Polish is very cheap compared to the USA privately but still you need coverage. There is also private medical insurance in Poland.

  2. Laurie

    Thank you. I am not a Polish citizen. I would be retiring there with savings and eventually US pension will be available for me. How much approximately would private insurance cost me?
    I am currently working on obtaining my Irish citizenship, would there be any benefits in Poland if I have European Union Citizenship?

    1. Mark Biernat

      Private insurance all depends on age, health, coverage, but lets say 2 Euro a day. I pay cash for most things as everything is relatively cheap.

      Even major operations can be only a few hundred dollars. But prices for medical care are rising of course, So what I say to day might not be true in ten years. As an EU citizen I think (not postive) you can purchase ZUS (publich health) for about 200 dollars for less a month. This is the public health that includes hospital and most important medication. But to do all this I would highly recommend you working with someone in Poland to navigate all the subtle details of the health care system as I am only giving you general details.

  3. Laurie

    One more question, is there a certain age cut off for coverage in Poland. Another words do I have to move there by a certain age?

  4. Aga

    I just moved from US a couple of month ago with my American husband and 2 children. I’m Polish. We had a chance to be in 3 hospitals (there are only 3 in Gdansk) and I only have one thing to say to you – you were very lucky to be in such a nice hospital as you described. Most hospitals in Poland are terrible. My husand had to go to ER one day and we waited for 6 hours before the doctor saw us,bathrooms were dirty and without toilet paper, NO hand dryers or paper towels. I know how hospitals in US look like and I know doctor’s care. I’ve been to US ER and you can not compare. I gave birth to 2 children in US and after seeing Delivery Department in Poland I would probably have no children today if I had to deliver in Poland.

    Don’t get me wrong I was born and raised in Gdansk, Poland. I love this country but health care is not greta and YES you have private options but only for little things. When something really bed happens your only choice is a public hospital. We have just few private hospitals in Poland…and not one in 3 City.

    1. Mark Biernat

      I am sorry you had that experience but really don’t you research the hospital before you go?

      For example I use search to research everything. If in Krakow I needed an operation I would go to Doctor Robert Chrzanowski, you can read his online reviews and I know people who personally will recommend him.

      Research, just to not show up, even the hospital. In the USA you can be taken to some pretty scary inner city hospitals, I live in NYC, Philadelphia and Boston and there are good ones and bad ones. If you live in a city or visit know where to go.

      I mean in Krakow I went to the University hospital and it was beautiful, the next one I went to was St. Rafael’s hospital which was private and ZUS does pay for it and it was cleaner than any American Hospital I had ever seen and the doctors spoke English of course as did the staff. It is so clean and beautiful inside. When I went to Harvard MGH in Boston it looked liked something from the 1980s but this is brand new.
      When my wife gave birth to our daughter there was another small hospital in a nice wooded area of Krakow and she had a private room and it was covered under ZUS and it was very charming, it was just for giving birth and the people were very nice.
      Down the street from me is another one that is a beautiful old Catholic Hospital, then there is the military hospital which has some of the best surgeons, in fact I would get surgery here not in the USA as the Doctor that operated on the spine for example is work famous and fixes operations that other people mess up.
      There is a lot of medical tourists that come to Krakow by the way. Then there is an American Hospital in Krakow and of course nice clean and English speaking.
      I can not imagine you did not do research, it is very important and if you did have a negative situation there are procedues to complain to as it should not be run like that.

      Everyone that complains here about hospitals or prices or anything seem to be people who do not do research. Go to St. Rafael 12 Bochenka Street Kraków. There are amazing ones in Warzsaw too, you have to do detailed research about the doctors and the hospitals just like in the USA. I can not tell you all the bad experiences people I know have had in the USA.

      I have a question for you, if Polish medicine is so bad, why are life expectancy in Poland and the USA the same basically within a few months of each other, yet, the USA spend many times more on medical care? Why do scores of British and Germans and others come to Poland for quality medical care?

      You can also pay private and it is a fraction of the cost of the USA. A good family plan in the USA will cost about $2,000 dollars a month. Most plans exclude pre-existing conditions unless you get a group plan and the cost of medical care is out of control in the USA. It is like $10,000 dollars to give birth in the USA.

      Go to a private hospital or doctor in Poland it is very cheap and have you never been in a US emergency room? You wait forever. really I have been in one and it is such a line and there are drunk people in there all hours of the night.

      Poland is not as rich as the US and some things like flowers in the room might not be there, but the doctors are very good and I trust them generally more than the USA doctors I have had, who have been horrible and it is all about insurance companies keeping the costs low and them getting bonuses on cost containment.

      US doctors are motivated by money in many cases rather than treating the patient. I have not seen that in Poland.

      Further the walk in clinics in Poland are very nice and the one down my street is open 24/7. I should take photos of these and show you. Make sure you do the research or go to a private one next time in Poland, there is no excuses, I know it was ER but if you live in the area you should know where to go. In Krakow I would got to St. Rafal’s for example. Use Scanmed, I can give you specific recommendations of surgeons in Krakow if you need it.

      If you do not know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else in life.

      1. Mark Biernat

        I have noticed Polish born Polish people want the Sheraton Hotel and have high expectations about things. Medical care is about the skill of the doctor and the care and love of your family, not the amount of flowers at your bedside put there by the hospital staff.
        You have amazing doctors in Poland and with the bad experiences I have had in the USA with a horrible expensive and borderline corrupt medical system if I need medical care and I am in the USA I am flying back to Poland.

        I am not joking either, I have meet some genius doctors here and lackluster ones in the USA. It is about the skill of the doctor not the wall paper on the hospital.

      2. gaurav

        I need your help, I have been in Krakow for last 3 months, I have severe back pain for last 1 week, I have ZUS coverage as my wife works with a private IT firm, We also have insurance through LuxMED also.

        I have visited one doc at Luxmed but its really slow, I am in lot of pain.

        What is the best way to get some medical care and the right hospital.


        1. Mark Biernat

          I have had 20 years of sever back pain. Is your back pain muscular or degenerative or a herniated disc, I do not have enough information. I would recommend paying cash. I had ZUS because I worked but mostly paid cash. The public medical system has non-price rationing. That is they make you wait.

          I would pay 100 pln and go to the doctor. I pay cash in the USA and in Poland it is cheaper.

          That being said I had adult stem cells and it basically fixed a 20 year old back problem. I could barely sit and now I feel better. They came from my own fat tissue. Once you go to a doctor and get a diagnosis you will better have the ability to weigh your options.

  5. Kinga

    Sounds like you were lucky with the hospital. My experience was not as good, but it might be because it was a small town hospital, not Kraków or anything like it. It was like traveling back to communism, the way it looked and the way some of the staff treats you. That was a few years ago though, so things might have changed a little by now. Hopefully they did. But I still have a hospital phobia and avoid it as much as possible (have been successful for 11 years now when it comes to being a patient).

    1. Mark Biernat

      Everything is changing here so fast. What the world was like here 5 years ago is not the world today. Communism destroyed so much and capitalism has transformed Poland to a much nicer place because people have freedom and responsibility in their lives including medical care. I have found really good care in Poland, but if you go to any local or inner city hospital it is not as good as if you find the right doctor. In the USA I would never walk into a random medical building without researching in detail who were the doctors. I have had horrible experiences in the USA with doctors by doing that. Horrible wastes and bad doctors and the worst thing is people do not even know they are bad. But believe me I am a smart guy and they were recommending all kinds of wrong procedures and the patients where talking it as gospel. Do research be a bad patient and complain and protest and question.
      This is more about knowing how to be a bad patient than the country you life in.

      Did you mamma ever tell you life was going to be easy?

  6. Tegan

    Before moving to Poland 3 months ago with my husband, 2 children and pregnant belly, I had had nothing but good experiences when I visited and I read over this site and in particular this page on hospitals, so I was not concerned when I happily left Sydney to start again.
    Since arriving, I have encountered issues with my pregnancy and have needed to attend two hospitals. The first was beyond terrifying and the staff ignored me the whole time I was there. On discharge they told my husband to take me to a different hospital next time, 40km away. So when I went into preterm labour, we drove that 40km to find me trapped in a hospital beyond the 3 days mark, where toilet paper and eating utensils aren’t provided. Which is ok because you only are fed ‘rice soup’ at breakfast (9am) with a piece of bread, a piece of fried meat and a potato at midday, followed by a couple slices of dry bread, tinned meat and a piece of lettuce at 4pm and that’s it. No drinking water even. My pillowcase smells like about 100 other women have used it and it’s never been washed and my bedsheets have someone else’s blood stains on them. I have been here for 4 days now and they won’t let me leave, even though my preterm labour corrected on the first day here and I am in the clear, and my husband has me booked in with a private obstetric hospital elsewhere.
    I am furious about the substandard health system and how these other pregnant women are left to sit like cattle in the yards. There was a blood trail into the WC that staff just stepped over for 24 hours. I don’t even get to shower in privacy because the showers don’t have doors for modesty. All these issues with hygiene and my two boys haven’t seen me for 4 days because apparently children are the hygiene risk and aren’t allowed in. I wish I could attach the photos of the cat food I was served (still in the shape of the tin) and the bloodstained sheets but it seems I am unable to. I want to get out of here but the staff won’t let me. Why? Do I not have a right to leave? We are paying for this because my husbands insurance is taking their pretty time sending us their end of the final paperwork, so surely if I am (honestly) frightened of the situation I find myself and my unborn baby in, am past the 3 day period and am stable, I can go home to my kids who are asking for me, right? This is madness.

    1. Mark Biernat

      I am sorry you had to go through that but I do not know what to say, I had exceptional positive experiences that I think I could not match in the USA.

      In US hosptials I have seen blood and worse out in the open with people very sick crammed in small ER rooms. I do not know if you are from the Hamptons or something but your experience is based on what you let it be. Walk out the first second you do not like something do not be a victim. You have the right like anywhere else to leave a hotel, resturant or hosptial or any place you do not like.

      Infant mortality in Poland is the same as the USA or Canada and lifespans are the same also within 6 months. So you can not base medical care on a HDTV impression of what a hospital should look like.

      You have to research the hsopitals. Do not just show up anywhere. Read and research, I would not go to half the inner city hospitals in the USA. You have to go to the good hospitals and when your there if you want bring your own food. The food in my hosptial in Poland was great, but if the food or other things are not up to par bring your own. It is not a hotel. You have the right to leave. Just walk out. Like everywhere you have to complain if something is not up to par or find another place.

      US medical care is so expensive not the best in many cases, too many drugs and unneeded surgeries. Americans think they get good care but they do not live longer or feel healthier. I got stem cells and this fixed twenty years of back pain. While my American friends did a series of surgeries from the best doctors in the USA and they suffer. Medical care is a hot topic because people expect the world of doctors are looking out for them, in some cases yes but in most you have to take care of your self. If you did not research the hospital and then when you showed up something looked off, walk out. You can not be a victim.

      You can be moved to another place or complain. The US Embassy has a list of doctors and hospitals and there are private ones also.

  7. Tegan

    Australian hospitals only have flowers if patients are given them by visitors, so don’t go defensive and compare Australian hospitals to US ones. I spent many many hours waiting for a doctor and treatment in Australian hospitals, but the facilities and hygeine were always taken care of. It is heinous to see people from a nation that experienced economic growth during the global recession (and after) be so overlooked by their own government, with regards to healthcare. If the people of a nation cannot rely on their government to provide adequate healthcare (and basic human needs like food and drinking water to the public health facilities) then why bother? If your people can’t rely on you to care for them then you can’t rely on your people to care for their nation, which is probably why I’ve heard nothing but complaints about how awful it is to live in Poland, since I arrived here.

    1. Mark Biernat

      I am an American working at a major investment bank and I will fly to Poland this summer for medical care for my family as the US care is way to pricey and there are a lot of brainless doctors in the West if you are aware. They perscribe pain killers and antibiotics and give children CAT scans, which are so bad.

  8. Mags

    An unfortunate situation with Polish health care is the mentally of the medical professionals. Many of them simply have no compassion. Because it’s socialist medicine and they don’t have true competition, patients are not treated with the dignity they deserve.

    In the states, medical facilities compete for patients which includes exceptional customer service. As noted, this is vastly lacking in Poland. I understand Poland is not America and America is not Poland, however, compassion should not be a national thing, it’s a human thing and Poles need to actively speak up for their rights. It may take a while, but it has to be done. If the people stay complacent, then nothing will change.

  9. Wereta

    In Poland you should remember, that many people have problems with various language. I would strongly recommend to make a contact with American Clinic Wilanow just in case. The clinic can provide you with medical care and translators of medical documentation in case of need. Furthermore they do offer the help in case of further treatement if you had a severe accident. As far as I recall, it is only clinic in Poland which is able to offer such services. Thus remember about it.

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