The medical device service market in Turkey is in transition as the entire healthcare system moves from government-owned to privately held.

The service market is overwhelmingly dominated by independent servicers, which control approximately 40 percent of the market. The remainder is split between in-house (20 percent), dealers (25 percent) and manufacturers’ service teams (15 percent). To learn the requirements of the unique Turkish market, many medical equipment manufacturers appoint a contractor to service their equipment in the country.

The emphasis on outsourced service is one result of the country’s strong desire to privatize its healthcare system. According to Tradeport, the Turkish Government’s “Health Reform Project” was launched in 1993. Institutions are gradually moving into the private sector as commercial firms are encouraged to invest in health facilities though government incentives, including customs and income tax exemptions.

In 1998, 80 new hospital projects were scheduled to be completed by the private sector, which will give Turkey a total of 350 private institutions. In addition to private sector investments, 650 government hospitals are scheduled to be sold to the private sector in the near future.

A benefit of privatization is the reduction of red tape for medical technology vendors who sell equipment and service contracts here. Turkey imports nearly 90 percent of its medical equipment and U.S. companies hold 25 percent of that market. Surgical and dental products are the most commonly imported, with imaging equipment close behind. Bulent Guner, a field service engineer with a large imaging dealer in Turkey, sees increasing demand for used equipment coming from cost-conscious private facilities.

The job market for medical technicians is slightly down due to the economic crunch, but is expected to rebound by the end of the year. Guner says the structure of a typical service organization or in-house department follows the common management, engineer, technician hierarchy. Asked if servicers cover healthcare telecommunications and computers, Guner replied, “Of course.”

Biomedical engineer Eyup Bozkaya says there is an assortment of university, technical and military schools with biomed programs in Turkey, but the majority of technology training for medical systems is achieved though manufacturers’ courses. Some colleges offer biomedical engineering degrees in Turkey, but there are few, if any, organizations specifically working in the interest of biomeds.

Oversight standards for healthcare technology vary greatly. Bozkaya says the Turkish Standards Institute works to accredit healthcare facilities and he says there is movement to adopt European Union standards.