Istanbul clinic employs Syrian staff for night shifts
Fırat Alkaç – ISTANBULA hospital in Istanbul has been employing Syrian doctors to work evening shifts in order to meet the health needs of mostly Arabic-speaking Syrian patients, who have limited alternatives for medical treatment in Turkey due to language barriers.
A total of seven Syrian doctors and three Syrian nurses, who are members of the non-governmental organization Doctors Worldwide, have been working evening shifts starting at 5:30 p.m. at Bezmialem University Hospital’s Fatih branch to offer health services to mostly Arabic-speaking Syrian patients, who face difficulties in regular hospitals as they cannot speak Turkish.
The staff, which receives 300 patients per day, consists of Syrian doctors and nurses who fled their country in the face of the five-year-long civil war which caused a major worldwide refugee crisis.
One of the doctors working at the hospital, 38-year-old Zakaria Sallan, said two years ago he was working at a hospital in Damascus as a pediatrician before he moved to Turkey with his three children because of the war.
“Damascus has become a place that is impossible to live in after the bombardments. I came here thinking [about] my family. After I arrived in Istanbul, I have witnessed that Syrians were having language problems in hospitals. They were not able to express themselves. I was helping them as a translator. Then I have started working here. In [the] evening hours I treat Syrian patients. Since we speak the same language, they feel comfortable. I examine around 30 children per day,” said Sallan.
Another doctor working at the hospital, 53-year-old Arwa Alrajeh, said that until recently she was working at a hospital in an area controlled by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Moving to Istanbul some ten months ago with her three children and husband, Alrajeh said she was working at her own clinic in Damascus but the conditions were getting tougher due to the war.
“Since I was [working] in [an] al-Assad [regime-controlled] area, we were getting affected from the war a lot. But the conditions have become harder. We were not able to meet our needs like water and electricity. We came here. I continue to [do] my job to live in Istanbul. I treat Syrians with the Doctors Worldwide group. People do not go to somewhere else [another hospital], as they do not know the language. They cannot express themselves. They come here because they get shy in other places,” said Alrajeh.
Mahmod Shbaan, a Syrian national who fled the Syrian city of Homs some four months ago with his family, said he came to the clinic to receive treatment.
“Our living conditions are very difficult. The children are getting sick all the time. I get sick as well. Here, they treat us for free. We get the medicines free as well. We cannot go to somewhere else since we do not know the language,” said Shbaan.
The program coordinator of Doctors Worldwide, Damla Demirel, said they have been running the service at the hospital since November 2015 and treated around 21,000 Syrian patients.
The clinic offers service for Syrians from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and has seven doctors, three nurse and three translators.