Whether living in Sofia or just visiting, one should know where to seek help in case of medical need.
Written by Minka Paraskevova, edited by Lindsay Martin, photo from Unsplash.
The doctor references come from our community through the “Foreigners in Sofia and Friends” Facebook group. It’s not a definitive list, and the article will be updated continuously.
In this article, we will attempt to cover some of the most important medical fields and clinics that are highly recommended for medical treatment.
Emergency: Ambulance and Hospitals
In case of an emergency, dial 112 (the same number is valid for the whole of the European Union). There are English speaking operators available. It is a good idea to contact your embassy as well if the case is very serious. Sometimes they have a list of hospitals and doctors and could be of great help. For reference, here is the list of hospitals with English speaking doctors the British Embassy has published on their website. It is updated regularly.
Patience is necessary if you need to call an ambulance. Often, ambulances take more time than expected. It’s a good idea to arrange alternative transport to an emergency ward if you can. Taxis are a great option.
In Sofia, emergency patients usually are referred to Pirogov Emergency Institute /Институт Пирогов/. This hospital treats life-threatening conditions and emergencies like severe allergies, poisoning, fractures, burn traumas, etc. It is not only the best but also the only hospital that offers a pediatric 24 hour ER unit. It is a good idea to ask a Bulgarian speaking friend to join you and help you there as not all doctors speak English.
The Military Medical Academy is the second best city hospital that operates an emergency ward, which similarly to Pirogov treats all life-threatening conditions and emergencies, including pediatric cases . It is also the best place to go to in case of a Coronavirus.
Here are a few other hospitals that run a 24-hour emergency ward:
Emergency care for life-threatening conditions is free of charge in Bulgaria. Emergency wards are obliged to treat every patient regardless of insurance status, nationality, or ability to pay. If hospitalization is necessary, the patient will be charged extra. The emergency numbers in Bulgaria are: 112 and 150.
Please note that patients using the emergency ward for non-emergency situations will also be asked to pay.
Be advised that there have been reports about medical staff asking for extra money from worry-stricken patients and relatives in return for specialized care, medical supplies, or just because they can.
Hospital – болница pronounced bolnitsa
Clinic – клиника pronounced klinika
Where is the nearest hospital/pharmacy? Къде е най-близката болница /аптека? Kade e naj blizkata bolnitsa/apteka?
Doctor – лекар lekar, доктор doctor
Patient – пациент patzient
Disease, Illness – болест bolest
I feel pain, it hurts – боли ме boli me
Best recommendations for Medical Practices
In non-emergency situations, private clinics and hospitals are a better option. It will save you time and money. Doctors are well trained, and most of them speak English.
The top two hospitals with excellent medical care and English speaking staff are:
- Acibadem City Clinic Tokuda Hospital is the biggest private hospital in the country. Seeing a doctor costs approximately €30. Lab work and medical tests will come at an extra fee. Acibadem City Clinic specializes in Anaesthesia, Emergency medicine, General medicine, Mental health, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Pathology, Radiology, Surgery, and more. In addition, the hospital runs an international office which offers translation and help to navigate the medical system (.https://www.tokudabolnica.bg/en/medical-tourism/). Although it says it is for medical tourism, many expats have used it and are very pleased with it.
- Vita Hospital, another private hospital which offers all specializations.
Here are some references for private medical practices:
- Dr Antoaneta Georgieva – An excellent GP. She has a great personality and speaks fluent English! Here is her mobile – 0878704382
- Dr Onov – Dentist, 0883408940, Vasil Aprilov № 114, Sofia
- Dr Pevtichev – Gynaecologist, 0899256049
- Dr. Violeta Dimitrova – Gynecologist, 9833020, “Femina” Clinic 47 Dunav Str., Sofia, Sofia
- Dr Albena Simeonova – Ophthalmologist, 0889523200
- Dr. Slavena Stoikova – Opthamologist at Tokuda Hospital. Very personable, professional and listened to my concerns. She has experience seeing children with Down Syndrome.
- Dr. Gratsiela Yaneva – Dentist, 0883435137, 46 “Pop Bogomil” Str., Sofia
- Dr Kristina Kastreva – Neurologist, Speaks English, German and French, https://superdoc.bg/lekar/d-r-kristina-kastreva-dm-8317
- Dr.Milkov – Physician & Nephrology, Acibadem Cityclinic
- Dr. Stoyan Dimitrov – Otolaryngology (Ear-Nose-Throat), always available for consultations and prepared to help you out! 0888 176 865
- Dr Mariyana Baikushev – Pneumologist, Internist at Tokuda Hospital.
Health Insurance and Travel Insurance Costs
In general, most travel insurance policies cover visits to private clinics. The EHIC card (EU citizens) entitles travelers to free medical treatment /emergency care, urgent care, and routine procedures during their stay. Keep in mind that you will be asked to pay the non-refundable patient contribution applicable to Bulgarian citizens. (Usually no more than several euros).
However, the card is only valid with doctors and hospitals that have a contract with the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). Most doctors and hospitals in Sofia do, even many of the private medical practices.
Make it clear that you want to be treated under your EHIC card coverage and not as a private patient. For that, you will be asked to sign a declaration and to present an ID. It should then be the responsibility of the Bulgarian NHIF to seek reimbursement from your national insurer. In practice, this is not always the case. Travelers and expats report being made to pay for their treatment and later seek reimbursement from their national healthcare provider, a process that is lengthy and cumbersome. Therefore, please check if your National Insurance Provider will reimburse you for any prescription drugs bought in Bulgaria and under what conditions.
The EHIC does not allow treatment in private hospitals which do not work with the NHIF. EHIC also does not cover transport to your country of residence in case of a serious medical emergency, or first aid or emergency transport for mountain climbers.
It is recommended to have both the European Health Insurance Card and additional travel insurance.