Turkish team bringing health services to citizens, kin in Balkans
Mesude Erşan – EDIRNE
Turkey’s trans-border health team (SES), established under the local health authority of the northwestern province of Edirne, has been offering services to Turkish citizens and kin communities abroad since its establishment three years ago.
Over the past three years, an urgent health services team, which has two ambulances and 11 personnel and is ready 24/7, has brought 23 patients to Turkey with ground ambulances. Therefore not only does it come to the assistance of emergency cases in Edirne province, but also Turkish citizens and people of Turkish origin residing in neighboring countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia.
The 11-personnel team consists of two doctors, three drivers, four emergency medical technicians, and two paramedics. It takes patients suffering various emergency problems at their place of residence and takes them for treatment at hospitals in Edirne or Istanbul if seen as necessary.
“The [Turkish] consulates have been informed regarding our services. We told them that in cases where there is such a demand, we are ready to meet this [demand] and could pick up the patients … We have intervened in 23 cases until now that required acute care or continuation of treatment. Not only do we transfer the patients but if necessary we also [undertake the treatment],” said Edirne provincial health director Dr. Muhsin Kişioğlu.
One of the doctors assigned to the team, Dr. Duygu Akbaşak, said one of the ambulances is “like a small hospital.”
An emergency medical technician as well as an ambulance driver, Şenol Acar was in the team that crossed the border to bring over the three most recent patients. The team was dispatched to help a family that had an accident in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, a truck driver who had a heart attack and was robbed in the Romanian capital Bucharest, and a cancer patient who had a heart attack in the Bulgarian town of Kardzhali. The team brought these patients back to hospitals in Edirne and Istanbul.
“Sometimes they greet us with applause. They cheer and they see us as heroes. I cannot forget the moment when the truck driver in Bucharest started crying upon seeing us,” Acar says.
Ambulance driver Yılmaz Çavuş has been in the team since its establishment in 2014.
“I have lived in Bulgaria since the age of 25. So naturally I speak Bulgarian. People abroad who hear the sound of ambulance sirens immediately pull over to the right. This is something that we very much miss in Turkey,” Çavuş said.
In the event of an emergency call, Turkish consulates abroad notify the local Edirne health authority. The head doctor of emergency services, Dr. Duygu Akbaşak, then contacts the hospital where the patient is located and looks at whether the patient can be transferred to Turkey. If it is possible the team is then dispatched to the relevant country. Turkish authorities notify the relevant country’s border gates regarding the issue so that the ambulance is not forced to wait in queues. The trans-border health team then picks up the patient wherever they are and brings them over to Turkey, applying treatment on the way if necessary.
The team was created upon the suggestion of former Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, who was born in the Greek city of Komotini, which has a strong Turkish community.