If you want to know the capacity of a country's health system, you should check two indicators: first, the number of hospital beds, and second, doctors per 100 000 population. Here's an interesting statistic: according to these indicators, Bulgaria tops the rankings. On the other hand, sadly, this has not helped the country fare well during Covid-19. During the second pandemic wave in the autumn of 2020, five Bulgarian regions headed the ranking for the highest number of covid deaths in the EU - 701 per 100 000 population in the Northwestern and 485 per 100 000 in the Northeastern region.
At the same time, according to the Eurostat regional yearbook for 2021, one Bulgarian region - The South Central, which includes Plovdiv and Pazardzhik provinces, has one of the highest supplies of hospital beds in the EU. There are more than 800 hospital beds per 100 000 people compared to an average of 186 per 100 000 in the EU. Only a few other regions in the EU have such an availability - the northern German region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the northern Polish region of West Pomerania, and two capitals of former Eastern bloc countries - Budapest and Bucharest.
To understand the reason behind this, we have to go back to the beginning of this century. This is when Bulgaria decided to not privatize state and municipal hospitals, but also not to place restrictions on opening new private ones. As a result, construction on new ones began alongside the existing state-sector ones. By 2018 their total number reached 322, with 53 173 beds, or an average of 74.8 beds per 10 000 people.
Generally, there are significant differences in the number of hospital beds across Bulgaria - almost 60% of them are concentrated in seven regions: 20.8% in Sofia, 13.3% in Plovdiv, 4.3% in Pazardzhik and also 4.3% in Burgas, Varna, Pleven and Stara Zagora.
The biggest state hospital - University Hospital "St George", is located in Plovdiv and has 1435 beds. Near Plovdiv, there are another 45 hospitals and sanatoriums. And, in Pazardzhik province, there are 14 hospitals and SPA clinics. Thus, in the two large provinces of the South-Central region, there are 60 hospitals. The only district with more hospitals and sanatoriums in Bulgaria is the capital Sofia in which there are 80 hospitals for active and long-term treatment.
At the same time, Sofia is in the Southwest region where the total population is above two million people as in the South Central region there are 1.4 mln people. Hence the South Central region appears to house the most hospital beds in Bulgaria and also be one of the most prepared regions in all Europe. According to the Bulgarian report on the nation's health, Plovdiv is the province in Bulgaria with the highest supply of hospital beds - there are 98 hospital beds per 10 000 people. And this hasn't changed in years.
In conclusion, there are so many hospital beds in the South Central region because no government coordinated treatment needs. This is how, historically, in the region there appeared 60 hospitals within a short distance of each other.