Tourists don’t just come to Turkey for the sun and the sights. Hundreds of thousands of foreign patients each year are now traveling to receive treatment in private hospitals in Istanbul and other Turkish cities.
Forty-seven-year-old Bishkek resident Mira Iskendirova, a cervical cancer patient, is one such medical tourist. When her cancer metastasized, Kyrgyz doctors recommended that Iskendirova fly to Turkey for treatment. She opted for the Anadolu Hastanesi, a private Istanbul hospital affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After an operation, she returned to Kyrgyzstan for a chemotherapy regimen prescribed by her Turkish doctors.
“In Kyrgyzstan, the price is lower, of course,” Iskendirova said. “When you compare quality, this is higher. In health, I prefer quality rather than price.”
Turkey’s Ministry of Health estimates that some 500,000 foreigners were treated at Turkish hospitals in 2010; the figure represents a 70-percent increase since 2007. In 2010, the country earned a whopping $850 million from health tourism, according to the semi-official Anatolia News Agency.
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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.