The Turkish government recently dropped a small bomb on the ten of thousands of foreigners applying for residency when they announced a series of new requirements for all ikamet applications. Amongst the new requirements is a sağlık raporu, or health report (Turkish grammar nerds: please forgive the spelling. This font doesn't seem to support Turkish letters well). Initially I thought the report would be as simple as going to my doctor and getting a physical. How wrong I was.
Google Maps Yok
For starters, the sağlık raporu can only be done at a state hospital (the big irony here is that another requirement for residency is purchasing an insurance package in the private healthcare system). At the time I did mine, the only hospital in Istanbul that was doing the reports was Kağıthane Devlet Hastanesi. The hospital is a short walk from the Sanayi metro stop, but be warned that Google maps has the wrong location for the hospital, so you may have to stop someone and ask for directions. (Afedersiniz, Kağıthane Devlet Hastanesi nerede olduğunu biliyor musunuz?)
Once you find the hospital, don’t make the mistake I did by getting in the long line at the front desk. They’re only going to tell you to go downstairs and find the office which is the makeshift command center for yabancı sağlık reporu. (By all means, these poor public servants are just as annoyed about this as you are— so try to be polite.) Once inside the office, they will ask to see your passport (and old ikamet for renewals), and give you a form to fill out. You take that form and a copy of your passport (for the love of God, never go to any government office without a copy of your passport) to the front desk upstairs. The line will be long, so if you want to have any hope of doing your entire report in one day, you better get to the hospital by 8:30.
The Scavenger Hunt
After taking your information, the front desk will give you seven barcodes with the names of seven doctors attached to them (ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, internal medicine, ENT, pulmonologist, and one that I’m forgetting). After you pay the fee at the vezne (cash only-- 250 TL if you have a T.C. No., 600 TL for poor unfortunate souls like me who don’t), you have to find each of these seven doctors and have them sign it (the neurologist is on the ground floor, the rest are on the first floor— or second floor in American parlance, but you better drop that, Fahrenheit, and imperial measurements if you’re going to have any hope of surviving here). For some of the doctors it’s as simple as them asking you a few questions, for others there are tests involved.
My biggest piece of advice for getting it all done in one day is going straight to have your blood drawn first. In addition to the dozens of other foreigners trying to get their health report-- many of whom will cut you off at any given chance-- you’re waiting to see these seven doctors with lots of Turks who actually have serious health problems. (I will never forget the glare I got from the one good eye of a man with a terrible eye infection as I went inside to see the ophthalmologist.) The biggest bottle neck is certainly the blood test, which I saved for last, and as a result I had to come back the next morning to get my blood drawn.
To get your blood drawn, first you have to see the internist, who will take your information. Then you can take a number from the machine outside her office, which will give you a place in the queue to get your blood taken. First, your number will be called at a desk where they will give you two vials, which you take with you when your number is called in one of the cubicles where they actually draw your blood.
A similar process is followed for the X-rays. First, see the pulmonologist on the first floor, who gives you a piece of paper to take to the basement X-ray technician. After you get your X-rays taken, you wait around 20 minutes while they’re analyzed by the radiologist. The files are then given to you on a CD, along with a report, which you turn into the office at the end. X-rays are probably the second biggest bottle neck, so I would do that immediately after giving blood.
Bear in mind that everyone takes an hour and a half lunch break, starting at 12:30, so if you don’t get everything done in four hours, it’s going to take at least six and a half. Regardless, you’ll have to come back to pick up the actual report a few days later. (Four days for me.)
My best piece of advice is to be polite to the doctors and nurses (lots of “Kolay gelsin”s and “Sağolun”s), and strike up a conversation with the other people waiting. We’re all in this together— even if they are trying to cut you off.