The British Department of Health website clearly states that Britons travelling to or living in Bulgaria are entitled to critical and essential expatriate healthcare in Bulgaria which should include doctors’ visits, basic dental treatment and hospital care and the provision of these services is given in reciprocation as Bulgarians have the right to the same in the UK.
However, because the state healthcare system in Bulgaria has suffered from extreme under funding for years it is way behind the UK and other Western European nations in terms of facilities, services and expertise therefore the majority of expatriates in Bulgaria take out international expatriate health insurance so that they can afford private medical care. Given the dramatic cost of later life healthcare, is it reasonable to expect other EU states to fund the cost of elderly UK citizens healthcare while we as a country mop up large numbers of talented young healthy migrant workers to support our economy? France has already said no and removed healthcare benefits for foreign citizens under their retirement age.
In terms of the availability of hospitals, clinics and medical services in Bulgaria all major towns and cities have at least one hospital and most doctors in state and private hospitals have at least a rudimentary understanding of English. This means that in an emergency one doesn’t have to panic and try and find a translator! However, if an expat is unfortunate enough to require a hospital stay they will find that few of the nursing staff will have foreign language skills and that nursing care where it is available is limited.
In countries such as Bulgaria and also Turkey as well, the family is expected to take care of their sick relatives when they are in hospital and it is down to the family to provide the type of nursing that we associate with Western hospitals where meals are provided and sheets are changed by staff for example. In Bulgaria expatriates who fall ill will need their friends or family to help out or else they should see about being repatriated to the UK or wherever their home country is.
Some expatriate medical insurance schemes have repatriation included but some do not; for anyone concerned about this it will be necessary to find a provider who includes Bulgaria in their geographic area of cover and who will allow for the repatriation of the patient in an emergency.
In terms of expatriate healthcare in Bulgaria, those who can afford it generally prefer to go to the private clinics, doctors and hospitals that are available in the main towns and cities. For a basic consultation expect to pay around GBP 15 which can rise to around GBP 50 for a consultation with a private specialist. Any Britons who wish to receive free treatment have to provide their passport and also their medical card which is available from the department of health in the UK before they can be treated.
There are no hazardous health issues that expatriates living in Bulgaria need to be aware of but those who are moving or travelling to Bulgaria are advised to get an up to date tetanus injection and consider Hep A and Typhoid as well.