Violata Galeva had been looking for a good dentist for four years to treat her ailing teeth. It was only through a friend she heard about a hospital that could help her, but it was some 450 kilometers away and in another country. The fifty-eight-year-old Bulgarian woman decided to take a shot and traveled to Tekirdağ, a city divided by Edirne, another province, from the Bulgarian border. "She was so right to recommend this place," Galeva says as Turkish doctors tend her at the Oral and Dental Health Hospital in the city. "I couldn't find a solution to my problem in Bulgaria and now I see medicine is very advanced here in Turkey. I am so pleased with the treatment and with the interest of Turkish doctors," she told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The hospital was opened in 2015 by the Health Ministry with the primary goal of having a better health facility in the Trakya region of Turkey, which includes Tekirdağ, Kırklareli and Edirne. Authorities also planned to attract patients from the Balkans region and indeed, the hospital soon attracted patients from regional countries, from Bulgaria to Greece, from North Macedonia to Kosovo.
The hospital's chief physician, Halim Doğrusöz, said Turkey made great strides in health care in recent years, and it helped drive health tourism. He said the hospital was also serving neighboring cities, but they started admitting more patients from abroad recently as it is staffed with a cadre of expert healthcare staff. "Our hospital is the 64th institution in Turkey accredited by the Health Ministry to improve health tourism. Turkey already reached international standards in healthcare, and we can compete with many countries with our health care techniques and technology. We now serve about 200 people from the Balkan countries coming for dental treatment," he said.
Erkan Şimşek, one of the dentists at the hospital, said they usually offer tooth prosthetics for foreign patients, and patients were satisfied with the services at the hospital. "We are treating Ms. Galeva now and are going to transplant her two tooth implants and six porcelain dental caps. She is glad to fulfill her health care needs here, and we hope to receive more patients from the Balkan countries in the future," he said.
Besides being an indispensable holiday destination for tourists, especially those from Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Turkey has also seen considerable growth in health care tourism in recent years. The number of health tourists has increased tenfold in the past decade, with 75,000 visitors coming for health reasons in 2008. In 2017, that number rose to 700,000 medical tourists, according to the Istanbul International Health Tourism Association (ISTUSAD).
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca recently said Turkey's revenue in health tourism has reached $1.5 billion and that they aim to increase this revenue fivefold by 2030. Receiving qualified service with low prices caused many patients around the world to flock to Turkey, he said.
Health tourism encompasses a wide range of treatments, from medical tourism, such as treatment and surgery in hospitals; thermal tourism, with services such as rehabilitation and rest in thermal facilities; and elderly and disabled tourism, with long-term stays with social activities in geriatric treatment centers.
Health tourists choose Turkey for a variety of reasons, including price, quality, technical conditions, short waiting periods and high-end facilities. Turkey holds a prominent place in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and organ transplantation as well as dental care and plastic surgery.