50 new private hospitals set to boost health services

August 23, 2012, Thursday/ 13:44:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

As part of efforts to meet increasing demand for health services, 50 new private hospitals are expected to be opened before the end of this year, data from the Private Hospitals and Health Institutions Association (OHSAD) have shown.

The new investments are seen as critical to addressing the ongoing problem of maintaining efficiency in health services, particularly emergency health care and intensive care services. The reforms allow Social Security Institution (SGK) members to make use of private hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units free of charge. An earlier regulation enabled private hospitals in Turkey to cover the treatment of patients under the SGK, which was only allowed in state hospitals in the past. In 2003 the government passed legislation making it illegal to refuse to release patients who are unable to pay their medical bills from treatment at a hospital.

Finding it difficult to adapt to the new reforms, private hospitals have complained that the government refused to increase the contribution fee paid to them in return for treatment of patients insured under the SGK. Some have even claimed that low contribution fees are crippling the services provided by their hospitals.

The SGK pays around TL 7 billion annually in contribution fees to private hospitals, while these hospitals have an annual turnover of around TL 18 billion. This is a clear indication that the sector is continuing its rapid growth, regardless of reforms. Of the 530 private hospitals across Turkey, 160 serve İstanbul. Amongst the 50 new private hospitals expected to open, 30 will be located in the megacity. This will increase the number of beds in private hospitals in İstanbul to 16,000 -- equal to that of hospitals under the SGK umbrella.

Private hospitals across Turkey provide 30,000 beds, with 22,000 doctors and 200,000 medical personnel. The overall number of hospitals -- state and private combined -- in Turkey is currently 1,500.

OHSAD Secretary General Cevat Şengül says hospital administrators feel compelled to increase their capacity year by year. “They believe that otherwise they will not survive in the face of growing demand and tough competition in the market,” Şengül commented. He attributes the anticipated increase in private hospitals to a new regulation that requires private medical centers -- those relatively less well equipped and staffed, and of a smaller size -- to either close or upgrade to hospital standard before the end of 2013. Big players in the Turkish private healthcare market are seeking to merge with or acquire smaller sized medical centers and hospitals, he explained. 

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