Within six months of its opening, Mersin City Hospital, the first healthcare facility of its kind in Turkey, boasts widespread public interest. Built based on the private-public partnership model and touted as the next level in healthcare, the hospital has already served 1 million people, with doctors performing more than 28,000 surgeries.
The modernized hospital concept, part of the government's health reforms, offers a diverse array of previously unavailable health services. It introduced an efficient way to manage the healthcare system by putting the private sector in charge for a limited time. The hospitals also reflect how far Turkey has come, from a crumbling system where public hospitals were clogged with an influx of patients and where the poor were forced to stay until they paid their treatment expenses.
Mersin hospital has little vacancy nowadays, its administrators say. Hospital director Dr. Recep Aydın said their 4,570-strong staff serves both Mersin, a Mediterranean city heavily populated by migrants, and the smaller cities near Mersin. A total of 420 doctors work at the hospital, and Aydın says they plan to open more healthcare units inside the sprawling complex that holds 1,300 beds, VIP rooms, suites - just like in five-star hotels - and state-of-art medical technology. Every day, an average of 8,000 outpatients and 1,100 inpatients are treated at the hospital. The hospital, built on a 374,000-square-meter area, joined more than 30 planned, under construction and newly opened hospitals in 22 cities with a total capacity of at least 41,000 beds, as the country aims to complete many more similar projects across Turkey by 2018.
Apart from smaller cities like Elazığ, Gaziantep, Konya, Adana, Manisa, Isparta, Kocaeli and Kayseri, the city hospitals will also be built in the larger cities of Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Bursa. The government says the new hospitals will boost health standards in the country, which also accelerated the launch of smaller public hospitals to reach more of the population.
Mainly built in the suburbs, the hospitals aim to improve health standards by significantly increasing hospital bed capacity and addressing the shortage of doctors. These large hospital complexes will provide services in a diverse range of medical specialties not available in the individual hospitals in many cities. To ensure the quality of services, the government has adopted a public-private partnership model for the construction and operation of the complexes. The city hospitals will be leased to private companies, and the government will only pay fees for medical imaging, laboratories, security, maintenance and healthcare worker salaries.
In recent years, Turkey has taken steps to rejuvenate the crumbling healthcare system. Hospitals run by the Health Ministry and Social Security Fund (SGK), formerly known as the Social Insurance Fund, were merged to prevent overcrowding in the latter. The government also cut the red tape in the treatment of patients with social security at teaching hospitals. Existing hospitals have been modernized, and more than 500 new hospitals have opened all across Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who previously served as prime minister of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), pioneered the "city hospital" concept, which he has described as his "dream for 14 years."