LOOKING AT HEALTH CARE
Bulgarians' health care expenses are covered under a national health system. The standards for health care have improved immensely over the past 50 years. Like other Bulgarian institutions, the health services system has been restructured since the end of the communist period.

Today, Bulgaria has more well-trained medical personnel than ever before in its history. Consultations and emergency treatment are free in government hospitals. Medicines to treat serious illnesses are also free in government hospitals. Prices for medical treatment and medicines are affordable, although unregulated, in private hospitals.

Although there are well-trained doctors in the country, beginning in 1990 shortages of supplies forced Bulgaria to accept donations of medical supplies, medicine and money from western countries. Some parts of the health care system are still in transition.

Up to the 1920s, rural people relied on traditional or herbal medicine and went to a doctor or hospital only as a last resort. Traditional healers believed that many illnesses were caused by evil spirits (baiane) and could be treated with magic, chants or medicinal herbs.

 Did you know?
     
Fire-dancing, nestinarstvo, an ancient religious and ritual dance on burning embers, was believed to expel illness and bring health and blessings.

  
Traditional medical treatments often required a patient to drink, wash or bathe in water from mineral springs. Springs and spas can be found throughout Bulgaria and people continue to visit them for relief from problems such as asthma, arthritis and rheumatism. Some of the most famous spas are at Hissar, near Plovdiv, Bankya and Momin Pzohod, near Sofia, and Sandanski, near Melnik.