Turkish gov't to set up new refugee healthcare centers, employ Syrian medical staff

Published 27.01.2017 00:00
Doctors Worldwide offers medical care to Syrian refugees at Bezmialem University Hospital in Istanbul.
Doctors Worldwide offers medical care to Syrian refugees at Bezmialem University Hospital in Istanbul.

Hosting nearly 4 million refugees, Turkey has provided health care, as well as education and other services, to Syrians for more than five years, and Turkey's Health Minister Akdağ offered insights into the ministry's new plans for refugee health care

Hosting more than 3 million Syrian refugees despite lack of global support, Turkish institutions and authorities are doing everything in their power to make Syrians feel at home and to provide them with necessary basic needs. Speaking at an exclusive live program of Anadolu Agency (AA), Health Minister Recep Akdağ offered insights regarding the initiatives saying, "Turkey is looking into integrating Syrian medical professionals into the Turkish healthcare system, while allowing Syrian refugees to benefit from the all health care services that the Turkish state has to offer."

Minister Akdağ said that Turkey is pleased to host millions of Syrians as guests within the country's borders, as Turkish institutions and officials do everything they can to improve the living conditions of the refugees. Stating that Turkey continues to help those who are in need in a time when third parties do not want a strong and powerful Turkey to stand up, Akdağ said that their biggest motivation is knowing that they are helping people who are seeking refuge. Akdağ said there is no way to describe this feeling in numbers, asserting: "However, I believe that God helps us as much as we help the oppressed and those who are in need as a country. ... People in Turkey are aware of why we help our Syrian brothers and sisters, and what we are standing for and I know for a fact that they are comfortable with our policies. Of course, we will meet our guests' needs if we are hosting them. The entire world, especially the U.N., appreciates our efforts. The recent refugee problem is one of the biggest problems that the U.N. has ever faced. There is no other country that can do what Turkey does for the refugees. There are countries that are trying, but none can achieve it."

Minister Akdağ further affirmed that all of the refugees needs — ranging from education to health services — are being met by the Republic of Turkey, and this effort is a first of its kind in the world.

To meet the needs of the refugees immediately, the Health Ministry has established several "Refugee Health Centers." Although refugees are able to get the medical care they require in any public hospital in Turkey free of charge, these health centers have been specially designed for the refugees. So far, "Refugee Health Centers" offer their services to Syrian refugees in Turkey in 16 different provinces. However, the Ministry intends to increase the number of refugee health centers to 170 and plans to add 500 affiliated health units. Minister Akdağ said they are currently locating the places where these centers will be established. "In some places, we will rent out the places while we build new centers from scratch in locations we consider appropriate," he added.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health is preparing to issue a special work permit for Syrian medical staff to provide medical services to Syrian refugees. The minister explained that, "We are getting ready for it and are currently offering education to Syrian medical staff and putting them through a series of tests. Preparations will be ready within the next three months. New refugee health centers will also be ready by the end of 2017, and we will be able to offer a broader range of health services to the refugees."

Akdağ also emphasized the number of births among Syrian mothers since the refugee crisis began. He said that approximately 60,000 births have taken place in Greece per annum and added, "We have delivered 200,000 Syrian infants in Turkey alone." Health Ministry figures show a total of 177,568 Syrians were born in the country between April 2011 and September 2016.

Akdağ further explained that the Ministry is working very hard to prevent any epidemic outbreaks in Turkey, saying: "Thank God that Turkey has not yet faced a serious epidemic despite the large numbers of refugees the country hosts. We have given vaccinations to all the Syrian children. We also added new vaccines to the vaccination calendar to prevent poliomyelitis and the measles."

Turkey has been praised for its admission of the refugees arriving from Syria, while Europe, the dream destination for most refugees, is still reluctant to accept desperate migrants fleeing a war with no end in sight. The country also boasts a total of $25 billion spent on helping and sheltering migrants. Among them are over 1 million underage refugees, making Turkey the top child refugee-hosting country in the world. Shouldering such a responsibility requires not only providing them with accommodations but also offering them health care, as well as education and other services.

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