A new initiative launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health in Turkey aims to improve the treatment of Syrian refugees by employing Syrian doctors.
As Syria’s northern neighbour and the recipient of the highest number of Syrian refugees in the world, Turkey faced a number of unique challenges over the course of Syria’s war. Caring for a Syrian diaspora of approximately 2.7 million (although some speculate that the number is as high as 3.5 million), attempts not to stretch its public services or destabilise its shock-prone economy have been at times a difficult task. It is hoped that a new initiative will ease some of the burdens.
The initiative, launched jointly by the Turkey’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO), is currently being piloted near the Turkish capital city of Ankara where a large number of Syrian refugees have been given residence and where a health centre specifically catering to Syrians has been opened. The goal of the initiative is to align the standards of the Syrian doctors in Turkey with the health standards of the Turkish Ministry of Health and the WHO, thus allowing them to serve the needs of both Turkish and Syrian patients. In conjunction, the process of obtaining working and residence permits has been streamlined for medical professionals.
In doing so, the initiative not only takes the pressure off the existing healthcare system by increasing the pool of available medical professionals, but it also resolves a number of challenges that comes with hosting a large refugee population. For instance, the language barrier has been a frequent problem when many Syrians sought treatment from Turkish doctors. The Syrian doctors partaking in the initiative bridge this difference.
The doctors here have also remarked that Syrian patients seem more comfortable communicating with Syrian doctors. Perhaps it is the common language and culture or the mutual experience of trauma and displacement.
The new initiative has also streamlined and regulated the process of Syrian doctors aiding Syrian refugees that was previously under the purview of non-governmental organisations, resulting in irregular quality. In doing so, it promises to reduce costs that could otherwise occur if conditions were not treated in time.
At a time of heightened economic concerns and resultant anti-Syrian xenophobia, the new model could offer a cost-effective model to integrate Syrians into the economy without putting a strain on public services while offering a new life for Syrian professionals who fear they may never be able to return home again.