Has anyone experience of Russian hospitals at first hand? I certainly have. I have been in hospital three times during my long, self-imposed exile in the Evil Empire. Western colleagues of mine, and not a few Russians as well, often voice their surprise over this fact, having at first assumed that my hospitalization took place in a private "Western" clinic. When they then ask me what it was like in a Russian state hospital, I simply reply: "I'm still here!" The first time I was in hospital was in February/March 1993. There was an outbreak of diphtheria in Moscow and I fell victim to it. I was in an isolation "box" and on a drip. It was not a pleasant experience and I thought my time was up. I was living in the former Kalingrad at the time: not the erstwhile Königsberg, but the present day Korolev (Королёв), and it was there that I first experienced the Russian state health service. After I had passed the crisis of my fever and was recovering, a nurse asked me when my wife was going to visit me. I told her that I was unmarried. She then asked if any friends of mine would visit me. I informed her that I had no friends in Russia, that I had only arrived in Moscow just over a month previous to my falling ill. She simply replied: "You're going to be hungry!" On hearing this, I wasn't that bothered, for I had little appetite at the time, of course, and the food that was given to me was adequate. I discharged myself one week after this dire warning: I needed to earn some money. The doctors urged me not to sign myself out, but I did. I was weak and underweight when I left the hospital, but I thanked the doctors and staff for their care: they had done the best that their limited resources had allowed them and I wasn't leaving feet first in a box. My treatment had been free. As a British citizen - and this still surprises many even now as it did some of the younger hospital staff at the time - I enjoyed the privilege of free emergency treatment in Russia. I think this was because of some post-WWII agreement made between the USSR and the socialist British government of the time and before the Cold War kicked off. The second time that I was in hospital was in 2002. I had married a Muscovite by then and was suffering pain from varicose veins. My wife's friend advised her to send me to a particular consultant at a particular hospital - a new one - in South Moscow. I had a consultation with him, I was admitted to the hospital, they did the surgery under local anaesthetic and five days later I was back home. No complaints from me whatsoever about the treatment that I received. I paid for that surgery and directly to the young surgeon. I can't remember how much now but it wasn't much. The third and last time that I had to be admitted to hospital was in 2008. That was after I had broken my left collar bone after having come flying off my mountain bike way out in the sticks near our dacha. I was admitted to the small hospital in the little township of Ruza near Mozhaisk. Visiting Ruza is like going back through a time warp to about 1950: pre-war Soviet houses - some still communal I should think -, many wooden buildings, statue of Lenin on the town square. The hospital, however, is new: it must have been built during the reign of the Evil One. The treatment was spot on. There were complications as I had broken the same bone before and the consultant orthopaedic surgeon and his colleagues were undecided for a while whether some surgery would be necessary. In the end, they set the fracture and fixed me up. I was there for a week and have no complaints about my treatment. I did not pay for anything during that last period of hospitalization because I have a full residency permit here, I pay my taxes here and I have national insurance. I should also like to add that all three of my children were born in Russian state hospitals: they are all fit and healthy and my wife also survived the ordeal of giving birth to them. If I should have need of going to hospital once more, and I sincerely hope that I shall not have to do so again, I would not hesitate from being admitted to a Russian state hospital. Perhaps I have just been fortunate in my Russian hospital experiences? That's what I am often told by colleagues, both foreign and Russian. I don't think so: not three times lucky. Has anyone else, I wonder, tales to tell about Russian medical treatment, be they praiseworthy or damning?