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While Bulgaria has exceptionally well-trained medical professionals, its facilities can suffer from poor standards due to a lack of infrastructure and funding. There’s a large amount of private practices, however, with many practitioners drawn to more lucrative opportunities. For those working in Bulgaria, including foreign residents, payments towards the country’s national health insurance fund are compulsory.
The business language used in Bulgaria is Bulgarian, however English is becoming more widespread in the bigger cities like Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. Medical staff in these cities will most likely speak English.
Bulgaria’s healthcare has limitations that expats may need to adjust to, such as poor facilities, understaffing and a simple lack of funding. Most expats tend to opt for the more efficient, reliable and progressive private offerings.
EU and EEA residents will be pleased to know that their European Health Insurance Card is valid in Bulgaria, meaning holders are entitled to free medical treatment at public hospitals which have a contract with the Bulgarian national health insurance fund. A digital card which stores your information is available in the form of a mobile app.
One must make compulsory contributions towards Bulgaria’s public healthcare system in order to use it. To make these contributions, expats must register with the National Health Insurance Fund, choosing both a GP and a dentist.
As is usually the case, private healthcare is far more advanced and well-equipped than its public sector equivalent. Relatively cheap when compared to many surrounding Western nations, Bulgaria has grown as a destination for medical tourism involving cosmetic and dental procedures.
Most doctors at private institutions are bilingual, so communicating via English shouldn’t be an issue.
It was only in 2007 that pharmacies, called apteka in Bulgaria, began to be regulated and run by qualified pharmacists. If looking to continue with a prescription for similar drugs, it’s advisable that expats obtain medical certificates from their GPs back home. Regulations for medical prescriptions can be a little more flexible in Bulgaria than in an expats home country.
There aren’t any significant health hazards in Bulgaria. But expats should be up to date with regular vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, chickenpox, polio and a flu shot. Other recommended vaccines include hepatitis A, hepatitis B and rabies.
Bulgaria is currently undertaking projects to modernise its emergency services and hospital facilities. State-run hospitals normally have dedicated emergency wards, while in the capital city of Sofia, the University Hospital Tsaritsa Yoanna and University Hospital St Anna both operate emergency wings.
Emergency response times are not very good. Because of potential language barriers and difficulty with the Cyrillic alphabet, it might be best to contact an English-speaking consulate for assistance during emergencies.
112 is the general European emergency number, which has bilingual operators who can assist with ambulance services or directions to the hospital.