Investments in health sector continue to increase, minister says

NUR ÖZKAN ERBAY
ANKARA
Published 09.03.2019 00:19

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the proportion of total health expenditure in Turkey's gross domestic product (GDP) has reached 4.5 percent with the services covering all citizens of the country regardless of their social status.

"Physical conditions and human resources are reaching a more desired level. The satisfaction rate in our health services is 73 percent. There is no other health system in the world covering all of its citizens' need. On the other hand, we are not in a good position in the number of physicians and beds, but we will reach the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] average by 2025," Koca said at a press meeting in Ankara.

According to 2017 figures, Turkey operates 894 hospitals, 7,950 family health care centers, 2,700 emergency health stations and 171 community mental health centers with around 1 million medical personnel. The number of doctors per 100,000 people was 186 in the country which is below the OECD average of 351 per 100,000 people. Life expectancy at birth is 78 in Turkey while child mortality rate per 1,000 live births was at 6.8 while the maternal mortality rate per 1,000 live births was at 14.6. Turkey provides free health care and has a general health insurance system that covers all citizens.

Stressing that the ministry's main aim is to provide high-quality and easily accessible health services to citizens, Koca said city hospitals hold a significant place in reaching this goal.

"City hospitals will be advanced complexes with qualified human resources and branch diversity. With a new approach, we aim to provide health services in every region of Turkey without the necessity of transferring patients. We want these hospitals to become brands," he said.

Mainly built in the suburbs, city hospitals aim to improve health standards by significantly increasing hospital bed capacity and addressing the shortage of doctors. These large hospital complexes provide services in a diverse range of medical specialties not available in the other 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 are being leased to private companies, and the government only pays fees for medical imaging, laboratories, security, maintenance and health care workers' salaries.

The health minister emphasized about 420,000 patients preferred Turkish public and private hospitals for treatment, adding that Turkey has a prominent place in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, organ transplantation as well as dental care and plastic operations. "Turkey's revenue in health tourism has reached $1.5 billion, and we aim to increase this revenue five times by 2030. Receiving qualified service with low prices caused many patients from the world to flock to Turkey," he said.

All kinds of tourism activities that offer health benefits are considered health tourism, which covers a wide field of categories such as medical tourism (such as treatment and surgery in hospitals), thermal tourism (services such as rehabilitation and rest in thermal facilities), elderly and disabled tourism (long-term stays with social activities in geriatric treatment centers or plateaus). While Turkey has developed its investment portfolio within the framework of these categories, the interest of tourists who seek treatment in areas such as oncology, orthopedics and aesthetics in the past few years has been reflected in official figures.

Koca said that the ministry also aims to decrease dependence on imported medicines, vaccines and medical equipment by 2023.

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