Update on Turkish medical tourism

 

According to Turkey’s Ministry of Health, some 500,000 foreigners were treated at Turkish hospitals in 2010; the figure represents a 70% increase since 2007. (There is no data on whether these are medical tourists, expatriates, or holiday or business travelers who fall ill in Turkey.)

The Foreign Economic Relations Board describes Turkey as an emerging medical destination and says the attraction to relatively low medical costs, a convenient geographic location and adherence, as a European Union candidate, to EU healthcare standards.

Turkey has 556 private hospitals, competing with each other for medical tourists to offset the losses from Turkish nationals. The government plans to upgrade a few of the country’s 833 state-run hospitals to accommodate foreign patients as well.

Anadolu Hospital
group has an international patients office with a multi-lingual team responsible for attracting foreign patients to the hospital and helping them during their stay. The group expects 2011 to show foreign patients as 25% of the total, compared to 4.5% in 2002. It reports that 5,000 patients come from more than 30 countries, but most are from the Balkans and Central Asia. Those from neighboring countries seek affordable quality car, while those from further away are more price driven. While some are self-referred, others are referred by overseas hospitals, medical tourism agencies and a host of overseas sales representatives.

One problem area with Turkey is that it almost impossible to succeed with a lawsuit for medical malpractice. Turkish law rarely offers high compensation awards in the few cases that plaintiffs win. The long legal process and costs can mean the plaintiff is out of pocket even if they win damages. Foreign patients have little legal recourse in Turkey.

Fortis Healthcare International has pulled out of talks to buy a controlling stake in Turkish hospital group Acibadem due to valuation concerns and political unrest in the Middle East. The stake is being sold by Almond Holding, owned by Dubai based private equity firm Abraaj Capital and Turkish family Aydinlar. Abraaj has a 46 % stake in Almond Holding, which controls 92 % of Acibadem. Acibadem Hospital Group has 6 general hospitals, medical centres, outpatient clinics, an ophthalmology center and laboratories.

Turkey has been attracting international investors' interest, with one of the highest economic growth rates globally. Healthcare and private hospitals are popular choices among private equity houses, but many of the banks and private equity groups are seeking to sell their stakes.

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