Albanians Spend Millions on COVID-19 Treatment in Turkey

Bilal's relatives took drastic action. Speedily, they collected funds to send him to hospital in Turkey, a trip organised by one of several companies operating in the booming air ambulance industry.

"When my life was in danger, we took the decision to get me to Turkey on a chartered flight," he told BIRN.

Several hundred Albanians have made the same difficult and expensive choice since the COVID-19 pandemic started, BIRN has learned.

Albania's Civil Aviation Authority told BIRN in a written answer to a FoI request that by November 18 this year, some 565 flights "for medical purposes" had taken off from Albania's sole international airport.

The overwhelming number of these took off from Tirana in October and November, as the country confronted an explosion in infections.

Data show that the number of such medical flights grew from just five in May, when the COVID-19 outbreak seemed under control, to 152 in October. Over only 18 days in November, another 206 flights were carried out.

Information provided by two companies that operate air ambulances shows that COVID-19 patients spent some 6.7 million euros over that period on flights abroad to get help.

Data from private hospitals in Turkey meanwhile suggest that Albanian patients may have spent some 12 million euros more once they got there.

BIRN has learned that a typical chartered flight to Turkey costs in some 10,500 euros if its not urgent while in urgent cases, the price goes up to 20,000.

An overnight stay at a private hospital in Turkey cost some 1,200 euros, rising to 3,500 euro if it offers deluxe service. COVID-19 patients might need to stay there for at least 15 nights.

According to the Civil Aviation data, 87 per cent of the medical...

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