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Turkey - Health Service
The Turkish healthcare system was previously divided into three departments:
• The SSK
• Emekli Sandik
The SSK department was responsible for handling employee healthcare. Bag-kur handled healthcare for the self-employed. Lastly, Emekli Sandik managed healthcare services and records for retirees. This devolution system was meant to simplify the Turkish healthcare service. On the contrary, the system was a major flop and was riddled with incompetence and poor services.
The Yesil card also remained intact in this new medical care system. The Yesil card is a green card issued to the homeless and poor who cannot afford public health services. In Turkey, the poor are defined as those without a salary, permanent residence, or a car. Foreigners can qualify for the Yesil card as well, but it is unlikely to see a poor expat in Turkey because you have to provide proof of financial stability before you can be allowed into the country.
Private hospitals in Turkey provide quality services. Many expats go to private healthcare facilities because the staff are well trained and the medical equipment is updated and well-maintained. The Turkish government has tried to improve public medical care to make EU citizens feel more at home. However, the quality of public medical care does not match what most EU citizens experience in their home country.
Istanbul has one of the largest private hospitals, known as The American Hospital. It is managed by the Vehbi Koc foundation and the quality of healthcare matches North American standards. The American Hospital also collaborates with international organizations like the Columbia Medical Faculty, Texas Children's Hospital, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. These partnerships help to provide quality medical services to both inpatients and outpatients.
All Turkish public hospitals have well trained and qualified doctors to tend to the patients. However, public hospitals have a number of shortcomings, which is why many expats avoid public healthcare facilities.
Firstly, public hospitals barely receive any financial support from the government. This has led to the over-utilization of already outdated medical equipment, which is poorly maintained as well. Moreover, many of these public patient centers become overcrowded, rendering services extremely slow.
As an expat seeking medical attention in these hospitals, expect to encounter faulty equipment that often has missing components. In addition, public hospitals often run short of experienced medical practitioners. Patients are left at the hands of inexperienced nurses. Doctors are never on call at night, hospital beds rarely have privacy curtains, and expect few English speaking medical practitioners. Public hospitals do not feed their patients, and blood banks are constantly running out of donor blood.
The teaching hospitals are preferable for an expat seeking health service on a budget. These hospitals are located next to medical schools, thus are properly funded and maintained. They also have a low influx of patients, are quite clean, and have professional doctors on call 24/7. However, the teaching hospitals also have inexperienced nurses as the qualified ones are transferred to the public hospitals with fewer doctors. Nevertheless, an expat has a better chance of quality healthcare in teaching hospitals than in the government-owned hospitals.
Local clinics are located on the outskirts of major cities. They usually have one doctor and a maximum of two nurses. These local clinics are only available for vaccinations, check-ups, and medical prescriptions. Consultation services are offered as well, but in the Turkish language. Any major medical cases are often referred to the bigger, well-equipped hospitals.
Foreigners can visit local clinics as long as they speak Turkish or are accompanied by a Turkish-speaking individual. Treatment is free if you have insurance and reasonably subsidized for those without medical cover.
Finding a hospital
If you have medical insurance, your policy provider will give you a list of the best hospitals and clinics within your locality. If you are visiting Turkey for a short period, ensure you get temporary international insurance cover. Alternatively, there are Turkish holiday providers that add medical care to their tourist packages; these are ideal for tourists who are coming to Turkey on holiday.
Ambulance services are available in Turkey. The emergency number is 112 for all Turkish towns. Ambulance response time entirely depends on the hospitals that own them. Ambulances from private hospitals have a faster response time and have quality emergency equipment. Public ambulances are poorly maintained and often take too long to respond owing to the many emergency cases they receive. If it is not a life-threatening emergency you are dealing with, you are better off using a cab.
Istanbul has plenty of private healthcare facilities with quality ambulance services because international hospitals like Medline have branches in Istanbul. Towns like Ankara and Izmir have few ambulances, which also affects the response time. Emergency helicopters are available as well and owned by international hospitals like Medline or airlines like Doruk Air. It is advisable to have all the emergency numbers for your respective Turkish towns.
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