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Healthcare in Turkey in 2024

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Over the past few years, Turkey has made a major breakthrough in the quality of its healthcare system. According to the Numbeo global survey, based on comprehensive surveys of respondents around the world, Turkish healthcare is now on par with leading countries and even ahead of such countries as Sweden, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. In large cities, the quality of service in modern clinics and hospitals, both private and public, is comparable to Germany and Israel, while at the same time being much cheaper. Therefore, for example, German citizens are one of the largest groups of medical tourists in Turkey.

Developed healthcare system in Turkey

The healthcare system in Turkey consists of both public and private medical care facilities. Public healthcare covers all regions and develops in proportion to the population and the development of settlements. Private healthcare in Turkey has been rapidly developing over the last decades. At the moment, most private clinics and hospitals are located in large cities. The entire system and all related structures are managed by the Turkish Ministry of Health, which is responsible for the availability of medical care to citizens. The ministry organises preventive measures, builds new public institutions and controls private ones. In addition, the ministry regulates medicine prices and licences, controls chemists and manufactures.

Universities and the Ministry of Defence also create their own clinics and medical research centres.

The healthcare availability for both citizens and foreigners is ensured by the health insurance system.

Health insurance in Turkey is compulsory for everyone

Health insurance policy (sigórta bedeli) is a mandatory document for both citizens and foreigners living in the country on a residence permit. Employers take care of the insurance of citizens. For some categories of citizens, such as pensioners and low-income families, the insurance is issued free of charge at the state insurance company SGK. The company also provides social benefits along with health insurance policies.

Public health insurance

The government-approved SGK health insurance policy is the most common in Turkey. It is issued for the whole family and covers up to 100 percent of treatment in public hospitals and up to 80 percent in private ones, including prescription medicine. The policy cost for citizens is 2,100 Turkish liras per year with monthly payment options available. For foreigners living on a residence permit or work visa, the SGK policy will cost a little more, from 3,000 to 3,500 Turkish liras per year.

Private health insurance

In Turkey, there are many private insurance companies willing to provide health insurance policies. Here are just a few of the most popular ones: MAPFRE, AXA, ALLIANZ, AKSIGORTA, Nippon, and Demir. Private insurance policies are flexible in coverage; it is possible to choose the most suitable treatment options in private clinics. However, with a private policy, you will need to find out in advance which private clinic your insurance company works with. The basic coverage of a private insurance policy costs between 2,000 and 5,000 Turkish liras per year, depending on the holder’s age, and covers about 40-60 percent of the outpatient treatment cost and 100 percent of the inpatient treatment cost.

Treatment of dental and chronic diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases is excluded from the basic insurance. Extended insurance policies that take into account health conditions and cover special cases or chronic diseases are more expensive; the cost can reach up to 15,000 Turkish liras per year.

Whatever the type of a health insurance policy, it must necessarily indicate the amount of insurance coverage and a list of medical services.

Health insurance is compulsory for foreigners with a residence permit

A health insurance policy is compulsory for foreigners, who are applying for a residence permit in Turkey. Public insurance can be bought after one year of living in Turkey on a residence permit, before that foreigners can only be insured by private companies.

Health insurance for tourists is not required, but highly recommended

Foreigners who come to Turkey on a visa-free basis may not have travel insurance. Citizens of most European countries can stay in Turkey for up to 90 days every half a year on a visa-free basis. However, acquiring a health insurance policy can protect against unplanned expenses in the case of an unforeseen situation or emergency. A health insurance policy for tourists can be issued beforehand at one of the insurance companies in the home country that cooperate with Turkish private companies. Travelling insurance will not only cover emergency calls and the cost of treatment and medicines, but also allow you to get advice on choosing a hospital with maximum insurance coverage. The cost of the policy is disproportionately small compared to the risks of paying the full cost of treatment.

Free healthcare in Turkey

No Turkish hospital provides services for free, but due to the developed health insurance system, in which the majority of citizens and visitors of the country participate, high quality medical services are available to everyone.

Medicines are cheaper than in Europe

The Turkish Ministry of Health regulates the prices of medicines. For each medicine, there is a maximum possible selling price in Turkish liras for chemists (Eczane). Travellers note that medicine prices in Turkey are cheaper than the prices of similar medicines in Europe. However, there is a caveat: these limits do not apply to prices in US dollars or euro. Almost any chemist shop will first offer a foreigner to buy a medicine with foreign currency, in which case the price will be much more expensive, sometimes several times more. At the same time, a chemist cannot refuse to accept Turkish liras for payment.

If you buy a prescription medicine from a doctor at an insurance-covered appointment, the policy will cover up to 80 percent of the medicine’s cost. Note that some of the medicines can only be bought with a local doctor’s prescription, those include most antibiotics, hormonal or psychotropic drugs.

How to find the correct medicine at a chemist in Turkey?

You can find any medicine in Turkey by its active substance. To do this, look up the active substance of a medicine and find its international ATC code. With this code, you can then find the names of its Turkish equivalents, for example, on the website ilactr.com. Just enter the code in the search field and click on the active ingredient. A list will appear with all the medicines containing this substance.

An example of finding the Turkish equivalent of Creon.

  1. Find the active substance of Creon (pancreatin) and its corresponding ATC code (A09AA02) on the WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology’s website or with a simple Google search.
  2. On the Turkish site ilactr.com, enter the ATC code into the search field.
  3. You will be given the corresponding name of the Creon’s active substance in Turkish (Multienzimler).
  4. By clicking on the active substance you will get a list of medicines with a similar effect: Fermento 80 mg 20 Kapsül, Festal 50 Draje, Festal 20 Draje, Flaton 30 Draje, Flaviastase 45 g Granül and others.

Usually travellers take a set of essential medicines with them. Do not forget that medicines must be transported across the border in their original packaging along with instructions; otherwise they will not be allowed through by the airport security service.

Hospitals in Turkey

In Istanbul alone, there are almost a thousand hospitals: private (özel hastanesi), public (devlet hastanesi) and university ones (üniversite hastaneleri). You can find out which hospitals are present in the area you are going to stay in Turkey on the website hastaneler.bbs.tr. This website was established by the Turkish Ministry of Health, so it contains the most complete and up-to-date information, including phone numbers and links to hospital websites.

Some of the private hospitals in Istanbul:

  • Vehbi Koç Foundation American Hospital (Nishantashi, Güzelbahçe street; tel. 0212/311-2000);
  • Florence Nightingale Hospital (Gayrettepe, Cemil Aslan Güder street; tel. 0212/288-3400);
  • Acıbadem International Hospital (Yeşilköy, İstanbul avenue, 82; tel. 0212/663-3000);
  • Taksim German Hospital (Taksim, Sıraselviler avenue, 69; tel. 0212/293-2150);
  • Balat Or-Ahayim Jewish Hospital (Ayvansaray, Ayvansaray avenue, 2; tel. 0212/491-0000).

As a rule, it is not difficult for a foreigner to make an appointment at a private hospital, since most of them have English-speaking employees. We suggest studying the hospital’s website: if it has an English version, you will definitely be able to receive services in English.

The highest concentration of hospitals in Istanbul is in the districts of Kadıköy (91) and Şişli (89). Medical infrastructure is less developed in new areas. For example, Esenyurt has a population of almost 1 million people, while there are only 11 hospitals. Although there are fewer hospitals in the newly developed areas, existing hospitals are much larger, as they tend to build modern hospital complexes in newer districts. In Turkey, you can choose any hospital or clinic you want to be treated in, as long as your insurance policy covers that particular facility.

The Basaksehir area is known for its modern university hospitals. Locals often refer to this area as the «city of health.» The name stuck because, in addition to numerous medical centres, the district is known for its protected groves, botanical gardens, landscaped parks and medical tourism infrastructure.

Thanks to foreign investment in government programmes over the past 15 years, a breakthrough has been made in the construction of the latest state-of-the-art medical centres. A striking example is the city hospital in Mersin. The total area of this medical complex is 375,000 square metres. The hospital is designed to receive up to 12,000 patients daily; it employs almost 5,000 people: doctors, nurses and other employees.

About 50 modern medical complexes are currently being built throughout the country as part of the cooperation project between the Ministry of Health and private investors. Taking into account numerous renovation projects, there are hundreds of projects planned for the upcoming years. The list of investment projects can be found on the Turkish Ministry of Health website.

Mersin City Hospital
Mersin City Hospital Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

More than 50 Turkish hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). This means that these facilities comply with the international health standards. Turkey has the second highest number of JCI accredited hospitals in the world.

Turkey is the capital of medical tourism

The most popular medical tours to Turkey are made by foreigners for the treatment of oncological diseases. High-tech qualified services for bone marrow transplantation, organ transplantation, and microsurgery are no less in demand. Aesthetic surgery has become the hallmark of Turkish medical tourism as well, especially hair transplantation. In the last decade, Turkey has become the world capital of hair transplantation and its specialists are considered the best in the world. Naturally, such a procedure will not be covered by the insurance policу; however the operation itself is not expensive. Depending on the clinic and the amount of work, the procedure will cost from 3,000 to 12,000 Turkish liras (170 to 700 US dollars).

In Turkey, there are a lot of famous resorts with hot springs. One of them is Pamukkale, located in the southwest of the country. There are 17 natural geothermal springs on the resort’s territory with a high concentration of calcium oxide and water temperature varying from 35°C to 100°C, as well as snow-white limestone terraces with ponds. Lumbago, rheumatism, rickets, psoriasis, as well as cardiovascular, nervous, skin and gastrointestinal diseases are treated here. There are also many people who visit Pamukkale for stress relief.

Limestone pools in Pamukkale
Limestone pools in Pamukkale Jakob Fischer / Shutterstock

Another famous health resort in Turkey is Yalova, located in the neighbouring province of Istanbul across the Gulf of Izmit. It is renowned for its thermal springs and refreshing mountain air. The resort treats musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal and skin diseases, as well as neuralgia, metabolic disorders and obesity. Visitors are offered Turkish baths (hammams), saunas and massages.

A spa resort in Yalova
A spa resort in Yalova Jakob Fischer / Shutterstock

Previously, Yalova could only be reached from Istanbul by ferry. However, a 2,620-metre-long bridge across the entire bay was put into operation in 2016. Now it is the longest suspension bridge in Turkey.

Public and private emergency medical services

Turkey has a public ambulance service, which uses 112 as its telephone number — the national number for health services in Turkey. To call a private ambulance in Istanbul, you can either call the International Hospital (tel. 0212/468-4444) or a Medline service (tel. 0212/444-1212). The latter is available around the clock.

Public ambulance service in Turkey arrives only if there is a threat to life or health. If there is no threat, they will offer to visit the hospital or contact private emergency services. However, for a fee, it is possible to order an ambulance to deliver a person to the hospital under the doctor’s supervision. In 2023, such a service costs 250 Turkish liras per call and 7 liras per kilometre.

Ambulance car
Everyonephoto Studio / Shutterstock

The emergency call can be made in English. Just say «English» and you will be switched to an English-speaking employee. When calling, you need to tell if you have an insurance policy and name your insurance company. If there is no insurance, then a fee will be charged for the services rendered.

The downsides of the healthcare system in Turkey are minimal

The only drawback is the complexity of the Turkish insurance system. It requires a comprehensive understanding of which services and medical facilities are covered by a particular insurance policy. Emergency services called by the national 112 number are only available with the government-approved SGK policies and several private ones.

A foreigner can get an SGK policy after one year of residence in the country. Before that, only private insurance options are available.

The latest medical advances and high-tech equipment are only available in major cities of Turkey. There are public hospitals in villages and small towns that provide basic medical care with good quality of services.

In general, Turkish public hospitals are excellent. Healthcare services in Turkey are on par with developed European countries.

Julia Tsorgaeva Julia Tsorgaeva Tranio’s manager in Istanbul

Over the past 30 years, Turkey has become an Europeanised country, while still maintaining its reliance on traditional values. Due to this, the country pays a lot of attention to social institutions, such as healthcare. All basic medical care services can be obtained free of charge with a health insurance policy, while high-quality paid medical services cost 40-60 percent less than in Germany or Israel. There is no speculation in the pharmaceutical market due to strict government regulations. Even public clinics and hospitals provide laboratory results in no longer than 2 or 3 days; and medicines in the most expensive district of Istanbul cost the same as in the farthest province of the country.

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