By Bayram Altug
GENEVA (AA) - Turkey’s first lady on Tuesday praised her country’s “people first” approach in healthcare services, which she said ensure patient satisfaction and that all refugees benefit from the services free of charge.
Speaking at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Emine Erdogan, the wife of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said: “Turkey has a historical tradition of never being indifferent to the world’s woes.”
“Thanks to our ongoing cooperation with the World Health Organization for six decades, this approach has become a remedy to countless humans,” Erdogan said.
In her speech, the first lady said: “It gives me great pleasure to say that Turkey has achieved monumental success stories with regards to the Universal Health Coverage.”
“We owe our success to the ‘people first’ approach in our healthcare services. We have placed people’s satisfaction at the core of all our health policies with the motto ‘people first’,” Erdogan said.
“We have oriented ourselves towards efficiency, accessibility, sustainability, and quality to ensure patient satisfaction,” she added.
Highlighting that Turkey has introduced a General Health Insurance scheme, Erdogan said, “This has resulted in 99.5% health insurance coverage in our country.”
“General Health Insurance covers the entire population – both working and non-working. We have minimized out-of-pocket spending on medication for our citizens.
“Expensive treatments such as cancer are covered by our State, entirely free-of-charge for the patients,” she added.
- ‘Most generous country’
Noting that Turkey is located in a “very sensitive region,” she said: “We boast the title of the world’s most generous country in ratio to the gross national product with over $8 billion spent for humanitarian aid.”
“Our land has become home to millions fleeing from wars, persecution, and discrimination throughout history. The Turkish hospitality reflex is the manifestation of long historical experience. Today, we host more than 4 million refugees within our borders.
“We have considerable experience and know-how in producing solutions to issues in vulnerable regions,” she added.
Noting that all refugees benefit from healthcare services free of charge, the first lady said: “I believe it is globally unprecedented and unmatched.”
“As a special practice for our refugee guests, we have developed the concept of Reinforced Migrant Health Centers in areas where the population of Syrians exceeds 20,000.
“In addition to primary healthcare services, these facilities offer specialized internal medicine, women’s health, pediatric and maternity services as well as imaging to migrants,” she said.
- 180 migrant health centers
The first lady said that 180 migrant health centers are “operational” at present in Turkish provinces having high populations of Syrians.
“410,000 babies have been born in our country in eight years. 1.5 million Syrian brothers and sisters have received inpatient treatment and 1 million people have been operated on,” she stressed.
With regards to Turkey’s healthcare services globally, Erdogan said: “Our Ministry of Health has, for example, established hospitals in Sudan, Somalia, and Bangladesh. More hospitals will be opened in Gaza, Bishkek, and Libya. Moreover, the Maternal and Infant Health Hospital of Turkey in Niger, the construction of which has been completed under my auspices, will become operational in the near future.”
“10,000 foreign nationals from 46 different countries have been treated free-of-charge in our country through our bilateral cooperation agreements with other countries,” she said, adding: “One-third of said patients is comprised of women and children.”
“We also offer grants towards easing the burden of epidemics, wars, and malnutrition in challenging regions, primarily Africa. Since 2012, Yemen, Sudan, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Somalia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Serbia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Pakistan, Syria, and Djibouti have received pharmaceuticals, consumables, vaccines, IVs, field hospitals, food, ambulances, and health scan equipment as grants,” Erdogan added.
- 'Equal opportunities'
Erdogan underlined the need for “new solutions in regions with unending conflicts.”
“Like the World Health Organization, we as the international community generally focus on survival and emergencies during humanitarian crises. Yet, people are left to their own devices once past the initial shock. Therefore, the situation in areas of disaster or conflict never improves. This is why the principle of universal health coverage is very important,” she said.
Underlining the importance of "sustainability" in healthcare services, she said: " We believe in the importance of teaching one how to fish along with giving them the fish to ensure sustainability in the provision of healthcare services. The transfer of knowledge and experience by our physicians is therefore of crucial importance to us."
"I do hope that we as the international community can give all the peoples of the world equal opportunities for life," the first lady said.
"Turkey is open to all collaboration schemes to dress the world’s wounds. We are enthusiastically willing to add our knowledge and experience to the World Health Organization’s transformative synergy. It is with these sentiments that I wish for our meeting to be auspicious for all of humanity," Erdogan added.
*Writing by Nilay Kar Onum