Moving to Syria
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TORONTO – Syrian refugees are often portrayed as undesirable burdens on communities in which they are relocated, especially in relation to the health care system. However, for people who escaped the horrors of the civil war in Syria, indifference to their problem can only be overshadowed by their real needs and the diversity of their professional experience. Although refugees bring with them extensive health problems, they also bring many years of experience in the medical profession, which, if properly used, could be a boon to the communities that receive them, not to mention other refugees.
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One of the most serious problems for a refugee is the search for a doctor. In many receiving countries, inadequate treatment is the result of xenophobia, a language barrier or inadequate supply of medical personnel. These problems are especially acute for the Syrians, who are scattered throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and North America.
But many Syrian refugees are also highly educated. Having found themselves far from those hospitals and clinics in which they once practiced, Syrian doctors simply want to return to work. Is not it time to let them do this?
Efforts are being made in the United Kingdom to resolve this problem. The National Health Service and the British Medical Association have begun refresher training for refugee doctors, including those from Syria and Afghanistan, to fill vacant posts in a variety of UK clinics. With the help of English-language training, post-graduate study and professional registration, programs based in London, Lincolnshire and Scotland are working on the reintegration of refugee doctors into the medical profession. Such efforts should be welcomed.
Refresher training for refugee doctors is beneficial not only from the point of view of morality, but also from purely pragmatic considerations. Such doctors have more skills in the treatment of diseases of refugee patients. Refugee doctors also will prevent an excessive burden from the flow of new patients on the health systems of host countries. In addition, retraining a refugee doctor is cheaper and faster than teaching a new medical student. Given that currently there are about 600 refugee physicians in Britain, the potential for unrealized talent in the UK is really great.
In addition, this creates advantages for refugee patients, since such a doctor better understands their circumstances, including the huge psychosocial stress that causes the forced relocation. Interpreters are also able to help, but their services are not always available in times of crisis. Physicians who understand refugees emotionally and culturally have more opportunities to calm patients.
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Britain is not alone in recognizing the potential of refugee doctors. In Syria, Syrian doctors and nurses received training that helped them familiarize themselves with the Turkish health system. The task is to provide an opportunity for Syrian specialists to treat refugee patients, which will soften the language and logistics barriers for effective, affordable and decent care.
However, other host countries can not boast of the same foresight. For example, in Lebanon and Jordan, where more than 1.6 million registered Syrian refugees are currently living, efforts to ensure that Syrian doctors are able to care for refugee patients have been criminalized. Physicians who violate the law risk being arrested and deported. Even Canada, a country that generally welcomes diversity and respects human rights, is keeping away from innovative approaches to refugee health. Syrian doctors face “long years” of retraining in Canada, and often are not able to pay for expensive re-certification.
In the face of this resistance, the medical care of refugees should be seen as something more than a set of logistical and operational problems, also taking into account the political process that is associated with them. To ensure proper care for refugee patients and the employment of refugee doctors, it is necessary to deal with two aspects of the existing problem.
First, refugee doctors may experience problems with acceptance among local colleagues because of political or personal bias. Recognizing the potential for local resistance to integration programs for refugee doctors is important for developing proactive policies that will ensure success.
In addition, refugee doctors need to be trained to meet the diverse medical needs that they will face in their new place of residence. For example, in many countries where refugees come from, the health problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual people (LGBTI) remain taboo, even among health professionals. For refugee doctors who move to countries that recognize the health and rights of LGBTI, integration training programs should include training on LGBTI health issues, and in particular the rights of particularly vulnerable refugees belonging to the LGBTI group. Improving the health of refugees related to LGBTI can be the basis for a more open society.
The refugee crisis that gripped Syria is only the first blow of a huge tidal wave of global migration. Worldwide, about 22.5 million people are officially registered as refugees and approximately 66 million people were forced to leave their homes. These figures are unlikely to decline in the coming years, as the catastrophes caused by climate change, as well as humanitarian and natural disasters, will continue to crowd out even more people from their communities.
Each of these future refugees will at some point need access to medical professionals trained in health, diversity and refugee issues. Providing refugee doctors with an opportunity to become part of this decision will help to overcome entrenched dogma regarding the diversity and social identity of refugees. And, no less importantly, it will be a significant step forward towards a more comprehensive refugee health.
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Vural & # xD6; zdemir.
Vural Ozdemir is a medical doctor, an independent writer, and an adviser on technology, society, and democracy.
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Moving to Syria