A few months ago, while travelling by bus, a man asked me: ‘Do you know where I need to leave the bus to reach Taksim Square?’ His accent was clear, so I answered him in Dutch. He looked confused and lost. I asked if he liked Istanbul. He didn’t: too many people and too noisy. ‘I am only here to accompany my daughter; she is undergoing a medical treatment right now at an eye hospital. We heard that eye laser treatments are cheaper and better here in Turkey.’
Medical Tourism to Turkey
According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2013 almost 200.000 tourists visited Turkey for (cosmetical) surgical procedures, from hair transplants and eye laser surgery to cancer and orthopedic treatments. These medical tourists are mostly from Western European countries, but also from (north) African and Middle-Eastern countries such as Libya and the United Arab Emirates.
Medical tourism: a promising business
In the beginning of my stay in Turkey I saw a lot of men walking around, wearing a headband around their bald, red heads. I was wondering if they were part of a new religious group or victims of (war) violence. Only later I realized that all these men were recovering from hair transplantation treatments. Medical tourism in Turkey is popular because of the relatively low prices, the excellent private healthcare and the absence of long waiting lists. The number of medical tourists to Turkey keeps on rising; in the first six months of 2014 the revenues out of medical treatments already reached 328 mln USD with over 150.000 foreign patients.
In this booming sector Turkish-Dutch businesses take the opportunity to invest in medical tourism, a sector that is also marked by the Turkish government as one of its priorities and aiming for billions of USD revenue. Corendon has a ‘Corendon Care’ department combining medical treatments with a sun-sand-sea holiday in Turkey. And Dunyagoz (eye) hospital has employees who speak Dutch. Among Dutch medical travelers especially eye laser surgery and dental treatments are popular, since health insurance generally doesn’t cover these costly treatments in the Netherlands.
My personal experiences with Turkish dentists are excellent. I am one of those male heroes who only allow dentists to look at my teeth when promising that he/she (female dentists are the most caring) will be extremely careful. Unfortunately I am a regular visitor, but when it comes to quality/price ratio the Turkish are by far the best. The only drawback is that my dentist loves talking about politics. As a patient not easy to react.