Countries like Spain and Italy have benefited from our Covid-19 experience via webinars

“We shared our experience and knowledge on Covid-19 through webinars with countries such as Spain, Italy, Pakistan, Bulgaria and Jordan”

Mr. Uğur Genç, the CEO of Memorial Healthcare Group, stated that Turkey’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic may not bring concrete achievements until next year, adding: “We anticipate that the previous figures in healthcare tourism may not be re-achieved until by May 2021”.

//Genç: We recorded a 37% growth in our turnover last year, with a rise in the percentage of foreign patients from 18% to 24% // 

Following efforts to suppress the first big wave of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, countries have recently initiated a process of cautious normalization.

Globally appreciated for its healthcare infrastructure, professionals and services throughout the process of Covid-19 pandemic, Turkey has reopened its doors to foreign visitors for healthcare tourism by last week. 

With the international flights starting by June, patients who will travel to Turkey through land borders by special permission will be admitted into the country after taking the Covid-19 test, without a quarantine period.

Turkey’s revenues from healthcare tourism: $1.5 billion

Independent Turkish interviewed Mr. Uğur Genç, the CEO of Memorial Healthcare Group, for his views on this year’s prospects for healthcare tourism, recording an annual revenue of $1.5 billion, and future projections. 

“We anticipate that the previous figures in healthcare tourism may not be re-achieved until by May 2021”

Having a 14-year experience in the field of healthcare tourism, Mr. Genç expects an increased influx of medical tourists with the international flights restarting by June, though adding that the industry may not be restored to its former state until one year later.

Genç, stating that foreign medical tourists constitute 24 percent of their total turnover, reported: “We do not expect a rapid revival of the healthcare tourism. We anticipate that the crisis may persist for a prolonged period. Asymptomatic carriers may still transmit coronavirus, which will make it harder to stop the pandemic. We anticipate that the previous figures in healthcare tourism may not be re-achieved until by May 2021. A second wave of the pandemic may come in the fall of 2020.”

Genç, referring in particular to the last 3 months as ‘a challenging period for private hospitals’, indicated that patients who postponed medical care except for problems requiring emergency response have lately resumed visits to hospitals during this period of the new normal. 

Near 100 thousand examinations and 3 thousand surgeries within the last 1 month

Reviewing the group’s data for the last one month, Mr. Uğur Genç also added that near 100 thousand examinations, 3 thousand surgeries and 10 thousand chemotherapy and radiotherapy procedures have been performed by the group.

“Majority of the patients are from Azerbaijan, Iraq, Russia, Bulgaria, Libya and Kazakhstan”

Providing information about the recent situation in the healthcare tourism, Mr. Uğur Genç, the CEO of Memorial Healthcare Group, noted that logistics is of importance and the majority of medical tourists are from nearby geographical areas.

“Azerbaijan is at the top of the list, and is followed by Iraq, Russia, Bulgaria, Libya, Kazakhstan and Romania” says Genç, also addressing the Balkans primarily including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo among the top countries receiving their services.

“We have very recently entered the North African market”

Genç reported that the group has very recently expanded their services to the North African market, primarily including Morocco and Algeria.

//Data of the Turkish Statistical Institute reveal that Turkey welcomed 551 thousand 748 medical tourists in 2018 and 433 thousand 292 in the previous year// 

“The biggest rivals are Germany and Israel”

“Quality determines the demand” says Mr. Uğur Genç, the CEO of Memorial Healthcare Group, addressing Germany and Israel as the biggest rivals in high-quality healthcare services.

Also listing Thailand and Singapore among the major rivals offering the same services as Turkey for similar prices, Genç says: “We offer the same quality healthcare services as the mentioned countries for lower prices”.  

“The success of our healthcare system has been witnessed not only by the people of Turkey but also by foreign citizens”

Addressing the current process of Covid-19, Mr. Uğur Genç stated that Turkey stands out with its professional healthcare teams primarily including doctors, infrastructure, equipment, reliability and technology within this process.

Focusing on Turkey’s success in the fight against coronavirus, Mr. Uğur Genç said: “The whole world has confirmed the competence of our doctors and healthcare system. The success of our healthcare system has been witnessed not only by the people of Turkey (the domestic market) but also by foreign citizens (foreign market)”. Genç also shared his estimation that the outcomes of this success in the process of pandemic will not be actualized until next year.

// Standing out with its success in the Covid-19 pandemic, Turkey is listed among the top 10 countries in healthcare tourism //

Genç, placing a general emphasis the strength of the country in the field of healthcare, went on to give examples of the cases he witnessed in the process of Covid-19:

In the UK, a hip fracture repair surgery can be scheduled for 6 months later. Whereas, in our country, it takes only 1 day to complete all examinations of the patient and decide on and perform the surgery! My brother is the CEO of a major bank in Spain.

 “Medical tourists will be admitted on special permission”

Reporting that medical tourists started entry into the country without a 14-day quarantine period, Genç said: “The Ministry of Health issued a circular on May 20. Accordingly, we gradually began to welcome medical tourists from abroad. As soon as they are admitted into the country, they will take the required tests. Air travel has not been possible during this one week, but we had 2 medical tourists from Macedonia and Bulgaria, who traveled to our country by car. Upon a new circular to be issued, it is expected that medical tourists will be admitted on special permission.”

Which branches are mostly preferred by medical tourists?

Mr. Uğur Genç, the CEO of Memorial Healthcare Group, describing their units that are most commonly preferred by medical tourists, said: “They mostly visit us for cancer treatment. The other most commonly preferred branches are bone marrow transplant (pediatric and adult) and hematology, orthopedics, oncology, liver and kidney transplant (pediatric and adult), general surgery, cardiology, IVF, neurosurgery, urology, hair transplant and plastic surgery”. In 2019, Turkey offered services to approximately 700 thousand patients mainly in the listed branches. 

“People will spend more on medical care”

When asked: “What kind of changes do you anticipate after the coronavirus?”, Genç answered: “People will start to care much more about their health. Probably due to their fatalistic nature, our people do not prefer to spend much of their income on healthcare. I expect that the healthcare will become much more important and people will start to spend more on medical care. I believe that high-quality healthcare institutions will stand out with their services during this process.”

All-inclusive healthcare tourism package

Giving an overview on the process of creating a medical care plan for a patient, Mr. Uğur Genç told about all-inclusive medical care packages offered to patients, which include any kind of services including flight bookings, hotel accommodations, meet & greet services at the airport and interpretation services. 

“People firstly need to trust the image of Turkey”

“We have paid great efforts to introduce Turkey and take remarkable steps in this field” said Genç, pointing out to the need for trust to ensure a boost in the demand, and noting that building trust on Turkey and its healthcare system is essential for further steps in this field.

“It is crucial for hospitals in holiday destinations to adhere to ethics and quality” 

Mr. Uğur Genç, stating that the revival of tourism in the process of normalization will also bring along the demand in the field of medical tourism, said: 

“Tourists may need medical care during their accommodation in the holiday destinations of our country, in which case they tend to prefer the nearest locations. We call it ‘tourist health’. Therefore, it is of greatest importance for hospitals in holiday destinations to adhere to the rules of ethics and high-quality service as it will shape the image of Turkey and the future of healthcare industry.

June 12, 2020