Many British citizens seeking weight loss surgeries in Turkey have suffered complications and the issue is becoming a “major problem”, British daily Mirror reported.
According to the British Foreign Office, 20 British citizens have died on medical tourism trips to Turkey since 2019.
Most recently, a 26-year-old new mother, Kyelisyah Ashamu, lost her life a week after weight loss surgery in the western Izmir province due to complications. A 25-year-old builder named Joe Thornley also lost his life in Istanbul following a gastric sleeve surgery, due to internal bleeding from his stomach.
Complications arise from a lack of aftercare, British bariatric surgeon Omar Khan told the Mirror. Patients are allowed to fly home to Britain days after surgery, Khan said, calling the procedure “indefensible”.
Bariatric surgeon and council member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Ahmed Ahmed said the increasing number of serious complications were due to a “lack of post-operative follow up”.
“Every bariatric surgeon” has had to deal with such complications after operations in Turkey, surgeon Nick Carter told the daily. “It would be wrong to say that’s happening in all Turkish hospitals, but certainly it is happening in some.”
The two patients who lost their lives, Ashamu and Thornley, had both booked their operations, hospital stays and travel tickets for £3,000 ($3,450). The same procedure would have cost £12,000 in private hospitals in Britain, and while the National Health Service provides the service for free, wait times can go up to five years. NHS calculates the cost of corrective surgeries and treatments for the severe complications that may arise to be up to £50,000 per patient.
Turkish Airlines signed a deal in August with Service Exporters Union (HİB) to increase Turkey’s medical tourism revenue to $5 billion in 2023. The country’s flagship airline will cooperate with more than 700 companies providing medical services.
The first half of 2022 saw service exports revenue go up by 60 percent, reaching $58.1 billion, Turkish Airlines chairman Ahmet Bolat said. Orhan Gazi Yiğitbaşı from the HİB said the medical tourism sector expects a total revenue of $2.5 billion in 2022, up from $1.6 billion last year.
“With the cooperation deal, I believe we will easily reach the 1.5 million patient and $5 billion export revenue for 2023,” Yiğitbaşı said.
While the average tourist spends $750 on a vacation in Turkey, medical tourists spend around $2,000, according to Cihat Alagöz from Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).