Health has always been one of the basic necessities of human life. As the time passes, healthcare delivery systems have developed as an inevitable extension of this necessity. I will try to briefly describe the health and healthcare system in Turkey. In addition, I am going to speak about what to do if you get sick, or face any kind of health problem. In order to understand the Turkish Healthcare System, you first need general information about the following: general health insurance, private health insurance, hospitals, pharmacies, dentists, mouth&dental health centers, and how they work.
GENERAL HEALTH INSURANCE (GENEL SAĞLIK SİGORTASI)
Under the limits of law, anyone who lives in Turkey must be within the Social Security System. Those who are above 18 can take advantage of the general health insurance. The aim of the Social Security System is to accurately insure people, as well as provide them healthcare. In the processes of general health insurance, there are some differences for foreigners. Let’s go over them, one by one.
Who can benefit from general health insurance?
Those who have a residence permit, they can benefit from general health insurance. İn addition, foreigners whose residential time in Turkey is more than 1 year can benefit from general health insurance.
Is it obligatory to consult for general health insurance?
No, foreigners can be registered within the general health insurance only when they request. You can make your request at the nearest Social Security Institution (SGK).
Which documents do foreigners need in order to request General Health Insurance?
You need your Residence Permit, a document showing your Insurance situation in your own country, and a Written Contract Form.
What healthcare services can foreigners benefit from as a part of General Health Insurance?
Except your chronic diseases which were diagnosed before your Insurance’s start date, General Health Insurance covers all other treatment and costs.
Note: The dependents of foreigners can benefit from General Health Insurance;
- Husbands Wives
- Children below 18
- In case of high school education, children who are below 20 and not married
- Regardless of age, children who are not married and confirmed as disabled
When does foreigners’ general health insurance coverage end?
Foreigners Insurance ends when their Residence Permit expires and they carry insurance in another country other than Turkey.
Are foreign students considered as insured?
A foreign student who is living in Istanbul has the right to demand general health insurance from their host university within the first three months of their arrival to Turkey. If requested, it is compulsory that the university provide them with this insurance.
How much do foreigners have to pay in order to considered as insured?
Foreigners have to pay 24% of the subsistence wage (1300 TL) for 6 months. In other words, if we consider subsistence wage as 1300 TL , you have to pay 312 TL for 6 months.
Foreign students also have to pay 4% of the subsistence wage (1300 TL) per month. For example, if you are a foreign student and you will stay in Turkey for 5 months, you have to pay 260 TL for insurance.
Note: Subsistence wage is recalculated in every January. 1300 TL is the value for 2016.
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE
Beside general health insurance, you have a chance to take out a policy of Private Health Insurance from several insurance companies. Private health insurances provide you more extensive healthcare in both private and public hospitals. There are significant differences between these two insurances in terms of their costs and contents. First of all, private health insurance’s price is much more expensive than general health insurance. Depending on your budget, there are several policies you can choose. The costs of the policies differ from 450 TL to 12.000 TL per year, while 1 year of general Health Insurance costs about 300 TL. Policies which involve both outpatient treatments and inpatient treatments are more expensive than policies involving only emergency treatments. Secondly, most Private Health Insurances pay a large margin to many of the inpatient treatments, including: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, childbirth and surgeries. In addition, Private Health Insurances includes ambulatory treatments, including: medical examinations, medications, medical analysis, x-rays and physiotherapy.
Depending on your current healthcare situation, you can either go to the emergency service or polyclinics (outpatient Clinics) of hospitals. There are 190 Hospitals in Istanbul, and 52 of them are belonging to Minister of Health. This means it is easy to find a hospital in any district of Istanbul. Remember there are differences between public hospitals and private hospitals, basically in terms of comfort and cost. There is no significant difference between public and private Hospitals regarding treatment. First of all, public hospitals are much less comfortable than private ones. Private hospitals can be compared to luxury hotels in this regard. İn addition, most healthcare professionals of private hospitals can speak English. Therefore, foreigners often feel more comfortable in private hospitals. Additionally, you don’t wait in long queues in private hospitals, while you may spend hours in queue in public hospitals. Secondly, treatment expenses of private hospitals and public hospitals are quite different. In public hospitals, you don’t need to pay any money at all if you have Health Insurance. The only thing you have to pay is the cost of your medication, and a contribution margin which differs from 6 TL to 10 TL according to the hospital. (University Hospitals, State Hospitals and Training and Research Hospitals have different contribution margins.) However, in private hospitals you have to pay for every medication and procedure applied to you. Compare this to public hospitals, private hospitals are very pricy. In some cases, you may pay a small fortune to afford the treatment in private hospitals.
Note: If you are hospitalized, you should bring your personal stuff that make you feel more comfortable (such as toothbrush, toothpaste, slippers, and shampoo), the drugs you currently use, your passport, your insurance card, your pajamas, socks, and underwear. In addition, don’t forget your glasses, hearing aid, and walking sticks if you need them.
|Private Hospital||Public Hospital|
|Cost||You have to pay a sizeable amount of Money for treatment||If you have health insurance, you don’t need to pay any money for treatment|
|Comfort||It is not wrong to say they are as comfortable as a Five Star Hotel||They are not very comfortable, the number of single rooms in hospital is limited, patients usually stay in double or quad rooms|
|English||Most healthcare professionals of Private Hospitals are able to speak English||In Public Hospitals, there are few healthcare professionals who can speak English|
|Queue||In Private Hospitals, you usually don’t wait in along queue in Emergency Service or in Polyclinics||In Public Hospitals, there may be very long queues especially in Emergency Services and also in Polyclinics|
Table: A brief comparison of Public Hospitals and Private Hospitals
These hospitals provide treatment for Special Branches of Medicine. You definitely go to these hospitals and get examined in times of serious need. These hospitals provide service for only certain branches of medicine. Therefore, these hospitals have relatively more experienced healthcare professionals in their relative fields.
Here are some of them:
Erenköy Psychiatric Hospital & Bakırköy Psychiatric Hospital; provide service especially for Psychiatry
Baltalimanı Osteopathic Hospital; provides service especially for Orthopedics&Traumatology
Süreyyapaşa Chest Diseases Hospital & Yedikule Chest Diseases Hospital; provides service especially for Chest Diseases
Yakacık Maternity Hospital & Zeynep Kamil Maternity Hospital; provide service especially for Gynecology&Obstetrics and Pediatrics
Siyami Ersek Carciothoracic Surgery Training and Research Hospital; provides service especially for Chest Diseases, Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery
Erenköy Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Hospital & İstanbul 70th Year Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Hospital; provide service especially for Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation
İstanbul Dermatologic Diseases Hospital; provides service especially for Dermatology.
DENTISTS and MOUTH & DENTAL HEALTH CENTERS
(DİŞ HEKİMLERİ ve AĞIZ & DİŞ SAĞLIĞI MERKEZLERİ)
There are 13 Mouth&Dental Health Centers in Istanbul. They also belong to the Ministry of Health. The locations of these centers are only in certain areas of Istanbul, which are: Topçular, Bahçelievler, Beylikdüzü, Güngören, Ataşehir, Üsküdar, Göztepe, Okmeydanı, Kartal, Sancaktepe, and Beykoz.
There are also many Private Mounth&Dental Health Centers and dentists in almost every district. As it is discussed under the pharmacy subject, it is very hard to find a dentist who can speak English. Therefore, it is best for you to go and see a dentist with a friend who can speak Turkish.
It is pretty easy to find a pharmacy in Istanbul. There is a pharmacy in almost every neighborhood of Istanbul. You can buy your prescribed drugs in pharmacies. Likewise, you can buy non-prescription drugs such as pastilles, ointments, nasal sprays, or vitamins. In addition, it may be very beneficial to keep it in your mind that there are night-pharmacies working 24/7. You can find that kind of pharmacies almost in every neighborhood. Note that the night pharmacies change their guards regularly. In other words, the same pharmacy night guard would not be on duty from one night to the next. Pharmacies which are not on watch put up a poster to indicate which pharmacy is on watch that particular day.
To sum up, you now have a better idea of the most significant points concerning the healthcare system in Turkey. Hospitals, general health insurance, dentists, pharmacies, and mouth&dental health centers are discussed. In addition to this, the subject of which hospitals provide better service in certain branches of medicine are also discussed .Before I finish, I want to leave you with a quite famous Turkish proverb:“A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
Born and raised in Istanbul where I’m a medical student at YeditepeUniversity.