Healthcare in Turkey has improved drastically over the decades, so much so that Turkey is now a regional leading provider of healthcare services. Currently recognised as a focused healthcare destination with superior technological advances, Turkey treats thousands of foreign patients from the Middle East and European countries every year. Turkey has continued pursuing medical superiority and solid expertise to create a foundation in creating quality care for patients. The healthcare system is striving to become a global competitor with other health service providers so it can not only reach excellence regionally but also globally.
If you are planning a trip, holiday or are coming to Turkey in search of medical treatment outside your own country there are some things you should know about the healthcare system and what it means for you as a foreign visitor.
Turkish healthcare and medical system as a foreign national
The Ministry of Health is in charge of all health services in Turkey. Turkey is a strong competitor in healthcare when compared with other countries such as; the US, Germany, and England are a few. The current statistics show Turkey as a low cost health provider compared to these nations.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you needed a heart bypass surgery:
- in the US it would cost around $129,750.00,
- in Germany it would cost $17,355.00,
- in England it would be $27,770.00.
- in Turkey a heart bypass surgery would cost you $12,000-15,000.
Don't think the lower price means a lower level of quality. There are around 60 internationally competitive medical faculties in Turkey, which are training thousands of Turkish and foreign medical students. This training allows Turkey to reach certification standards for physicians which in turn ensures successful medical results in a wide variety of fields. Almost every major pharmaceutical company such as, Pfizer, Glaxo-smith-Kline, Johnson & Johnson are already situated in Turkey alongside regional as well as some local manufacturers.
Healthcare for expats in Turkey
Let's look at a few frequently asked questions:
Is expat medical care good in Turkey?
Medical care is exceptionally good in Turkey. Both state and private healthcare is highly accessible for expats with private healthcare being extremely affordable in comparison to Europe and the US.
Expats with a minimum of one year's residency can opt to pay into SGK (Sosyal Guvenlik Kurumu), the Turkish State Health Cover. Although the monthly fees increase regularly, it provides cover for the whole family and as of January 2019 stood at 618.00TL. SGK can be used to contribute towards the cost of some treatment at certain private hospitals as well as cover admissions at state hospitals.
Each town or village has a family (aile) health centre which is like a local doctor's surgery. Generally known as Saglik Ocagi or Aile Sagligi Merkezi, consultations are free at these family health centres on production of a residency permit or passport in the case of tourists.
In addition, there are many private doctor surgeries or polyclinics (health centres with more than one specialist and more like a mini-hospital) which are competitively priced. These are often better geared towards foreigners and expats given that English is generally spoken.
Devlet hastanesi (state hospitals) offer ambulance and walk-in emergency treatment for both tourists and residents alike but admissions will be charged for. Doctors at the private clinics or public Saglik Ocagi (family health centres) can refer patients to the state hospital for specialist treatments. Although the treatment is generally of a high standard, these public hospitals can be rather chaotic and daunting to tourists with little English likely to be spoken. Generally patients for overnight stays are expected to bring their own carer and it is advisable to bring your own food. Emergency treatments are free for both tourists and residents alike but they do charge for admissions. In the case of residents this is covered by SGK.
Private Hospitals, such as Acibadem and the American Hospital in Bodrum, are also available for ambulance and walk-in emergency treatment for all but will be chargeable and more expensive than the devlet hospitals. Tourists may wish to check that their holiday insurance will cover them and residents with SGK will need to check what discounted rates are offered for what treatments. The private hospitals in Turkey are of a very high standard with rates much lower than those in the UK, Europe and the US with patients opting to come to Turkey for specialist operations as well as plastic surgery.
How do I get a doctor's appointment in Turkey?
It is possible to walk into all the places mentioned above or to search online for a telephone number to make an appointment. Appointments for the devlet hastanesi can be made by calling 182 or may be booked online via https://hastanerandevu.gov.tr/Vatandas/ or by downloading the '182 Merkezi' app. Generally, the local family centres cater towards walk-ins and are generally open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Friday.
How do I get to see a medical specialist in Turkey?
Either by referral from anyone of the private or public doctor's surgeries or clinics mentioned above or by visiting either the public (devlet) or private hospitals available.
What is dental treatment like in Turkey?
The standard of dental treatment in Turkey is excellent, making it a popular dental holiday destination. Treatment is generally from 50 to 70 percent cheaper than the UK, Europe and the US and many people now opt to have costly treatment such as crowns and implants carried out. Many dentists speak excellent English.
How do prescriptions work in Turkey?
Residents over 18 years old who are registered with SGK (see above) will only pay between 10 to 20 percent of the cost of certain prescribed medicines. Some private healthcare policies will cover only a percentage of the cost of the prescribed medicines while others will cover all. Expats who are registered with SGK will find there is a new digital system that links doctor's prescriptions with both residents' and expats' Turkish ID (kimlik) number.
Is medication cheap in Turkey?
Medication for most standard medicines appears to be cheaper than their equivalents in the UK, Europe and the US. However, less standard medicines that come from abroad can be prohibitively expensive but for expats maybe subsidised by either their SGK or private healthcare policies.
Healthcare for visitors to Turkey
If you plan on travelling to Turkey anytime soon there is some key health information you should know in case of a medical emergency.
- The US’s CDC, Center for Disease Control, recommends all international travellers keep up-to-date with immunisations. It is a good idea if you may be in contact with blood or bodily fluids to talk to your healthcare professional about inoculations you can receive to protect you against any unwanted infections.
- Look into travel insurance because if you do not then you will need to bring sufficient money to pay for any medical visits made on your trip. Even though Turkey’s medical services are notably less expensive than those in the United States and some European countries it still can add up if not prepared for.
- It is a good idea to plan your trip around or near a private hospital as they will be your least expensive, will have short waiting times and will also frequently speak English unlike many public hospitals. All accredited Turkish hospitals are equipped with latest cutting-edge technology.
Going to Turkey for medical treatment?
You're not alone. Turkey has become a vastly respected top destination for medical tourism in Europe. Their hospitals and medical facilities have quality medical professionals, some of which are US board certified. Turkey has around 600 private hospitals, and leading institutions offer a full-service attitude to international patients. If you are travelling to Turkey to be seen outside your own country’s medical facilities then here are a few key points to look at if you need to see a doctor or find one.
- Know your diagnosis and treatment needs, knowing this will help find a suitable doctor that will be able to accommodate your needs.
- Research suitable physicians. Once you have chosen a candidate call them and talk with them directly.
- Get everything in writing: cost, opinions and recommendations. The more you have in writing the less likely you will have a misunderstanding.
- Always insist on using a language you can understand. It is not best to try and brush up on your Turkish language skills when trying to communicate your medical needs. Fortunately for English speakers, in most Turkish medical facilities English is spoken so there should be no miscommunication.
Don’t try to plan your trip with an exact time frame in mind. If you are delayed because of a medical need or a needed extra few days of recovery it can cost a lot of money with the airlines and other accommodations it is best to try to figure one extra day to every five days you are spending. While you are in the hospital most offer certain accommodations or rooms by your needs. There are adjustable beds, internet connections, TV, safe boxes, nurse call buttons, and air conditioning in most rooms.
If you have a friend or family member travelling with you be sure to let your doctor know if they will be staying with you as well because there is only one patient guest allowed per single room and it must be approved by your doctor. There are special needs that you may request in most hospitals and should be directed to your nurse or the hospitals receptionist. They can usually accommodate your wishes or needs such as, worship, translator, and a daily newspaper.
Turkish pharmacies are a great source of medical help
Turkey has special pharmacies called Eczane, which you can usually find on most street corners. The pharmacist has the proper training to listen to your complaints and make a diagnosis or recommendation and also prescribe treatment medication. If they believe you need to be seen by a hospital they will refer you to one. The pharmacist can also dispense medications over the counter to you that might elsewhere need a prescription from a doctor.
In case of emergency in Turkey
Of course this will depend on type of emergency, however, for severe emergencies or accidents, make sure you call an ambulance. If you are staying at a resort or a hotel, just talk to your reception or if you can't do that call out for help. You can be sure someone will call an ambulance.
The ambulance will take you straight to the accident & emergency department of the nearest state hospital. You will immediately be seen, and there will not be a fee for attending to an emergency. The fact that you are not a Turkish citizen will not make a difference, you will be treated all the same.
If you visit a private hospital in Turkey, then there will naturally be fees. Compared to private hospitals in the UK and most of Eurozone countries, fees will be less than half. Compared to Brazil, Russia and India (part of the BRICS countries), costs of medical facilities and drugs with the private health sector are again more favourable in Turkey.
Should you take out private health insurance?
While government bid to have foreign residents opt into the public health service (SGK) scheme was not successful, it's worth looking into this if you're an expat. For couples and families, it's good value, although if you're single it is less worthwhile.
Under SGK, with a small monthly fee you have access to great medical care - although waiting lists for certain procedures can be long so it's generally a good idea to have your own health insurance. Premiums payable are comparable to most EU countries if not slightly under and cover tends to be very comprehensive.
If you are under 65, you are required to have private health insurance to qualify for residency. Your health insurance will need to be valid for the same period as your residence permit.
If you are travelling it's always a good idea to have travel insurance with a favourable health option.
Turkey has become a leading medical and healthcare region for Europe and a top competitor with even the US. They have low costs and excellent quality facilities, treatments, and technology making them an excellent place to receive top rate health care. Their doctors are usually trained abroad and a lot holding certification from the US. Being an EU candidate for membership they consistently uphold their standards of healthcare. If you’re travelling to Turkey be assured you will receive some of the best care and will be treated by some of the best trained doctors in the country. In short, if you have to be sick, Turkey is a great place to be sick.