Health care staff suddenly found themselves facing an immense workload amid coronavirus pandemic. The staff of 112, Turkey's health emergency hotline, is no different. The staff at the hotline's branch in Istanbul, has been coping with a sudden surge in calls, both for medical intervention and for advice on symptoms. The hotline's chapter handling cases in city's European side, takes nearly 40,000 calls each day.
Many calls are related to suspected coronavirus cases in these days, yet the center receives calls also for other complaints. The officers, who answer the calls, ask patients whether there are specific coronavirus symptoms in addition to their routine questions. After this phase, the patient is asked to wait for medical personnel by wearing their protective mask and gloves. At the same time, the nearest possible ambulance is directed to the patient’s home.
Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA), Fatih Türkmen, a specialist who serves as Istanbul European provincial ambulance service chief, said their center is the busiest one during regular days, but with the coronavirus, the calls significantly increased as many people call to consult about virus-related issues and ask for help with their needs during curfews. The hotline was also tasked with responding to assistance calls for senior citizens who are ordered to stay home in an exclusive curfew. Senior citizens can call the hotline for non-health related issues for assistance as well. The hotline also receives similar calls from other citizens during wider curfews usually imposed on the weekends.
“We were receiving 600,000 calls per month, but now we started to receive 40,000 calls per day. But fortunately, we are able to respond to all of these calls and send our ambulances to all necessary emergency situations with our 181 ambulances serving the European side of the city,” he said.
Stressing that 600 new personnel have joined their team with the emergence of the first coronavirus case, Türkmen said they have reached 1,000 health professionals working in the field and command centers throughout the day. “They are working with shifts in the field. We also have administrative teams,” he said.
Speaking about their system, Türkmen noted that they are working in call center method. The calls are initially specified by call recipients, who are not medical personnel, whether the call is related to a heath situation or not. “If it concerns to health, they transfer the call to a professional, who evaluates the condition. If necessary, doctors intervene at that point. They are asking some questions, whether there are any symptoms such as fever, cough and then severity is evaluated accordingly to our disease scale. Finally, our teams are dispatched to the case with protective equipment if necessary,” he said.
Stressing that the number of false calls has decreased since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Türkmen said their line should only be used for emergency situations. “We see a decrease in these types of calls now. There are some people calling to consult about coronavirus, which we don’t provide. We have the 184 phone line formed by our (health) ministry that is providing consulting to the cases related to the coronavirus. We just want to focus on cases that are relevant with us,” he said.