Understanding the Healthcare System in Turkey: A Guide

Turkey’s healthcare system has undergone significant reforms over the past two decades, resulting in improved services and increased accessibility. For expatriates living in Turkey, navigating this system can seem daunting at first. However, with a basic understanding of how healthcare works in Turkey, expats can ensure they receive the medical care they need. This guide provides an overview of the Turkish healthcare system, offering insights and practical advice for expatriates.

Overview of the Turkish Healthcare System

Turkey’s healthcare system is a mix of public and private healthcare services. The Ministry of Health is the primary body responsible for healthcare services, and it provides a wide range of services through state hospitals, university hospitals, and private facilities. In recent years, Turkey has become a popular destination for medical tourism, thanks to its advanced medical facilities and competitive prices.

Public vs. Private Healthcare

  • Public Healthcare: Public healthcare services in Turkey are available to all residents, including expatriates who are registered and have made contributions to the Social Security Institution (SGK). Public healthcare offers comprehensive services, but waiting times can be long for certain treatments.
  • Private Healthcare: Private healthcare in Turkey is known for its high standards, shorter waiting times, and more comfortable facilities. Many expats and locals prefer private healthcare for elective procedures and specialist treatments.

Accessing Healthcare as an Expat

To access healthcare services in Turkey, expatriates need to be registered with the SGK or have private health insurance. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Social Security Registration (SGK)

Expatriates working in Turkey are typically registered with the SGK by their employer, which covers them for public healthcare services. Self-employed expats and those not covered by their employer need to register with the SGK independently.

2. Obtaining a Residence Permit

Expatriates must have a valid residence permit to access healthcare services in Turkey. The residence permit application process requires proof of health insurance coverage, either through the SGK or a private insurance provider.

3. Private Health Insurance

Many expatriates choose to take out private health insurance to access private healthcare facilities and for coverage in private hospitals. When selecting a private insurance plan, consider coverage options, including international coverage if you travel frequently.

Healthcare Services for Expatriates

  • General Practitioners (GP): GPs are the first point of contact for non-emergency medical issues. You can visit a GP at public health centers (Aile Sağlığı Merkezi) or in private clinics.
  • Hospitals: For more specialized care or in emergencies, hospitals are equipped to provide comprehensive services. University hospitals, state hospitals, and private hospitals are available throughout Turkey.
  • Pharmacies: Pharmacies (Eczane) are widely available and can provide over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs. Pharmacists can also offer advice for minor ailments.

Key Considerations

  • Language Barrier: While many doctors and medical staff in private hospitals speak English, language can be a barrier in public healthcare facilities, especially outside major cities.
  • Medical Tourism: Due to the high standard and cost-effectiveness of healthcare, Turkey is a popular destination for medical tourism. Expats can benefit from a wide range of elective procedures and treatments available.
  • Emergency Services: In case of an emergency, dial 112 for an ambulance. Emergency services are available to everyone, regardless of insurance status.

Tips for Navigating the Healthcare System in Turkey

  • Healthcare Navigator Services: Some private insurance plans offer navigator services to help expats book appointments, find English-speaking doctors, and navigate the healthcare system.
  • SGK Registration: Ensure your SGK registration is up-to-date to avoid any issues when accessing public healthcare services.
  • Carry Your Insurance Information: Always carry your SGK card or private insurance details with you, especially when visiting a healthcare provider or in case of an emergency.

Further Resources

  • Republic of Turkey Ministry of Health: saglik.gov.tr provides information on healthcare services and initiatives in Turkey.
  • Social Security Institution (SGK): sgk.gov.tr offers details on social security coverage, including healthcare.


The Turkish healthcare system offers a range of services to meet the needs of its residents, including expatriates. By understanding how to access and utilize these services, expats can enjoy a healthy stay in Turkey, taking advantage of both public and private healthcare options. Whether you’re in bustling Istanbul, coastal Antalya, or historic Ankara, knowing the ins and outs of the healthcare system is key to ensuring peace

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