TURKEY

Home care services reach out to 1.3 million in 9 years

Home care, a landmark health service in Turkey's once crumbling health care system, marks its ninth year. Since it was launched in 2010, the service reached out to 1.3 million people who were provided with free treatment without leaving their place of residence.

The service, launched for 66,000 patients in a few cities in its first year, is now active all across the country, and strives to achieve more reforms in health care services neglected by past governments. The 2018 data shows 385,000 patients were registered as beneficiaries of the home care system.

In Istanbul, Turkey's most-populated city, the number of home care patients reached 72,000 in the first half of 2019.

The home care system basically aims to provide health monitoring for the elderly, bed-ridden patients and disabled patients by removing the necessity of visiting the hospital. Before home care, patients had to personally visit the doctor even for a simple prescription, consuming time and affecting the already fragile health of patients. As beneficiary as it is for patients, home care also cuts healthcare costs. For instance, post-surgery care for a patient at the hospital cost about $300-450 daily while this figure drops as low as $25 daily when the patient is cared for at home. For chronically ill elderly patients, health care costs decrease to $50 in home care, a lot less than the $75-150 for care at a hospital daily.

Professor Kemal Memişoğlu, head of Istanbul's health authority, says home care was available before 2010 but in a limited way and every hospital had to set up their own teams for home care and for a limited number of patients. "There wasn't much coordination between healthcare professionals. We launched a pilot project in 2010 on Istanbul's Asian side and set up a call center for patients. All applications for home care were coordinated from a single center and soon, we were able to reach out to more patients," Memişoğlu said.

Memişoğlu says crews made 90,000 visits to patients in Istanbul in the first six months of this year alone and run 50,000 blood tests and medicine reports for 30,000 patients.

Patients only need to call a hotline to sign up for home care services. After the free-of-charge application, health care workers visit the patient at home and check them for their medical needs. They then regularly check his or her health. In Istanbul alone, 322 healthcare workers from doctors to nurses work in home care services. The health care services do not only cover the patients in immediate need and Memişoğlu says dental treatments are also among services they provided in home care. He points out that some 4,500 patients had dental treatment at home this year. Other services include psychiatric therapy and physical therapy.

Twenty-five-year-old Tufan Aşçı is among those receiving home care. Aşçı survived when his car fell into sea and he was rescued 45 minutes later about three years ago. He is now bed-ridden and plugged into a respiratory device. Home care workers both regularly check his health and train his family on how to care for him.

"Tufan has been in the hospital for a long time after the accident and we brought him home after his first treatment. We signed up for home care services then and it has been about eight months since they visited us first. Nurses and doctors visit us and monitor him, care for his wounds. They also taught us basic procedures for his care and we can call them anytime we need help. We are grateful to every doctor and nurse in home care," he says.

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