Turkish health minister: New hospitals will target foreign patients

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The Turkish government is starting the “second phase in its transformation of the health sector” with a view to attracting patients from abroad, according to a report in Turkey’s English language newspaper and news website, the Hürriyet Daily News.

The report, published on Monday, came in the form of a lengthy interview with Turkish health minister Recep Akdağ, who described how the country’s government had successfully transformed the country’s healthcare infrastructure over the past 15 years, to the point where it was now able to plan new city hospitals that, as the article put it, would be “designed to attract [patients] not only through the quality of their healthcare but also through ‘five-star hotel’ accommodation services”.

“We are initiating the second phase [in the country’s healthcare overhaul, launched in 2002] with a strategy where the system is set up based on quality healthcare at low cost, attracting foreign patients to Turkey,” Akdağ told the publication.

“We are not only targeting countries in our region or our neighbors. We are shaping our strategy to get patients from Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

“While our developed private sector will continue to provide health services to foreign patients, we, as the public sector, will also provide health services to those coming from abroad.”

Asked why foreign patients might wish to come to Turkey, he said that the service they would receive would be “at least as good as the service provided in any other European country [or] the United States”, and that it also would “cost much less”.

One reason for this, he noted, was that Turkish healthcare providers were more efficient than many of their counterparts in places like Europe, with the result that such procedures as magnetic resonance imaging cost less to carry out. Wage rates in Turkey, he noted, were also significantly lower.

There was also a “private insurance dimension” to the story, as some states in the region are currently prepared to send privately insured patients to other countries when the need arises, for example, the facilities that are needed to accommodate them are lacking in the country in which they live.

In looking to attract non-local patients to its hospitals and clinics, Turkey would  join the ranks of a number of other countries that have set out their stalls in recent years as “medical  tourism” centres, including Dubai, Thailand, India and Brazil.

To read the Hürriyet Daily News’s interview of Recep Akdağ in full, click here.