Attempts to resolve medical tourism issues in Cyprus

 

After decades of division in Cyprus, there is genuine belief a political solution will bring together Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south.

Since 1974, when a brief Athens-inspired coup was followed by a Turkish military invasion, the island has been cut in two, with the northern third controlled by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots.

Turkish Cypriot President, Mustafa Akinci, promises to broker a peace deal with the south and is negotiating with Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot President of the island. Having two halves, divided by a United Nations buffer zone, does not promote tourism.

Issues to be resolved:

  • There is broad agreement the new state should be based on a federal model; but how loose should that federation be?
  • For Greek Cypriots, the presence of 35,000 Turkish troops on the island is a constant reminder that their country is occupied. Many Turkish Cypriots consider a Turkish military presence as vital, at least until they feel secure in a federal Cyprus
  • 200,000 Cypriots had to leave their homes as a result of the conflict. Arrangements for their return, or for appropriate compensation, would be complex and protracted

The division makes it much harder for North and South to promote medical tourism. The North hoped to attract people from Turkey, but Turkey has better medical facilities than Cyprus, although a small number do go there. For others, a zone under military occupation is not attractive, even if the facilities are attractive. The natural target for the South would be Greece, but Greece has its own problems. South Cyprus gets a few hundred British medical tourists and a handful from Europe and the Middle East, but numbers have tailed off in recent years.

The health system in the north has problems as local hospitals lack the necessary investment and are no longer appealing to qualified doctors. Locals avoid public hospitals in preferring private care because they fear they will not have the required treatment.

The number of Northern private hospitals has increased significantly over the past couple of years. While there are nine public hospitals there are now 15 private hospitals. While the number of private hospitals is quickly increasing, their bed capacity is 698 in total. Public have a bed capacity of 1,677.

Medical tourism was expected to happen in the north, with the increasing number of private hospitals; but lack of advertising and political issues have held back this development.

So the patient profile in public hospitals is middle-class Turkish Cypriots and Turkish citizens. Private hospitals rely on wealthy Turkish Cypriots and Turkish citizens, with a few medical tourists.

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