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Elevating Healthcare Services and Accessibility: Launching 24-Hour Shifts in Women and Family Health Centers

Established in 2017, White Helmets Women and Family Health Centers have made significant strides with a network of 39 centers and over 300 women volunteers spanning northwestern Syria's regions and camps.

To enhancing the services offered by the White Helmets and elevate their overall quality, a pivotal step has been taken rooted in a comprehensive study conducted by the organization, aimed at understanding the prevailing needs of the community and effectively addressing them. As a result of this study, a compelling necessity emerged—to activate a round-the-clock, 24-hour shift system within the Women and Family Health Centers. The initial phase of implementation commenced in select centers during the preceding period, and is poised to be introduced across all centers in the upcoming period as volunteer work to receive emergency cases, provide medical intervention, facilitate medical transfers, and bolster the ambulance system.
After enduring years of conflict inflicted by the regime and Russia, which severely debilitated healthcare in northwestern Syria through relentless bombing campaigns and forced civilian displacement, a pressing need arose to elevate healthcare services. This urgency was further exacerbated by a destructive earthquake on February 6th, intensifying existing infrastructure damage and magnifying the healthcare crisis. This calamity inflicted heightened injuries and deepened the scars of Syrians who have suffered for over 12 years.

Key Drivers for Transitioning from an 8-Hour Administrative System to a 24-Hour Shift:

  • Escalating Demand for Healthcare:
    • The existing 8-hour shift falls short in addressing the growing demand for healthcare services, especially after the catastrophic earthquake and its widespread impact on communities.
  • Catering to Community Needs:
    • The 24-hour shift model aligns with the schedules of individuals who cannot access medical care during conventional work hours due to familial commitments.
  • Swift Response to Emergencies:
    • Medical or obstetric emergencies can arise at any hour. The 24-hour system ensures immediate attention to urgent cases, minimizing complications and preserving lives.
  • Augmented Access in Remote Areas:
    • Embracing a 24-hour system widens service coverage and accessibility, particularly in regions lacking nearby medical facilities.

Positive Impacts of Volunteer Work in the 24-Hour Shift System:

The transition to a 24-hour shift system is poised to yield significant benefits for the population, particularly those residing in camps and vulnerable communities:

  • Lifesaving Intervention:
    • The availability of emergency response during nighttime hours assumes paramount importance in safeguarding human lives. With nighttime first aid and swift reaction to emergencies, risks are considerably diminished.
  • Mitigating Further Harm and Health Deterioration:
    • Timely provision of medical care plays a pivotal role in curbing the extent of damage arising from injuries, illnesses, and maternal care scenarios.
  • Boosting Community Safety:
    • Volunteers' perpetual presence within the centers instills a sense of security within the community. This, in turn, alleviates stress and anxiety, particularly among women and the elderly. Their round-the-clock readiness to respond to emergencies fosters reassurance.
  • Advancing Maternal and Child Health:
    • Amplified access to prenatal and postnatal care, coupled with the availability of midwives, stands to notably reduce complications. This proactive approach facilitates continuous monitoring and proficient care delivery, particularly for mothers and infants.

Services Provided by Women and Family Health Centers:

  • Healthcare Provision:
    • Comprehensive care services encompass on-site first aid as well as outreach interventions within camps and populated areas. This involves wound and burn dressing changes, along with continuous monitoring of the injured individuals. The urgency of these services is underscored by the consistent, organized bombardments by regime forces and Russia, the targeted assaults on medical facilities, and the existing frailties in the healthcare sector across certain regions in northwestern Syria. In these circumstances, women's centers serve as a vital lifeline to attend to the well-being of survivors and offer respite, particularly for women and children.
  • Prenatal and Postnatal Care (Reproductive Health):
    • Each center houses a dedicated midwife, responsible for overseeing the health of expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy journey. This includes comprehensive care for both the mother and child before and after childbirth. Additionally, valuable guidance is extended to women grappling with malnutrition.
  • Respiratory Health Sessions:
    • Given the volatile weather shifts in northwestern Syria, the prevalence of bronchitis and respiratory ailments, particularly among the susceptible demographic of children and the elderly, has escalated. The high-density camps, situated in delicate environments that facilitate disease transmission, amplify this issue. Addressing this concern, the centers facilitate sessions aimed at curbing respiratory diseases.
  • Hospital Referral Coordination:
    • Accessing specialized medical care poses a challenge for civilians in need. In response, White Helmets volunteers collaborate with operation rooms, hospitals, and medical centers to ensure seamless patient transport, addressing this critical gap.
  • Renal Patient Transfer:
    • Civilians grappling with renal failure require regular dialysis treatments. The centers undertake the crucial task of transporting these patients to and from medical facilities, ensuring they receive the necessary care.
  • Fostering Awareness Through Information Sessions:
    • Volunteers actively engage in awareness sessions, tackling diverse subjects in line with prevailing social conditions and the risks faced by civilians. This extends to societal needs, with a particular focus on disseminating knowledge about the dangers of war remnants and preemptive alerts of impending attacks. These initiatives aim to cultivate a well-informed populace, correct misconceptions, and contribute to post-war recovery and rehabilitation.

Service Statistics:

Since the start of the Women and Family Health Centers' round-the-clock operations in two centers a month and a half ago, their impact has been significant. A total of 822 medical cases have been attended to and subsequently transferred to hospitals and medical centers, including 470 women and 264 children, alongside delivering crucial first aid and wound dressings for numerous cases.

Throughout the initial half of the current year, 2023, the Women and Family Centers have continued to deliver their core healthcare services across various domains, including include general community health, as well as maternal and child care. The beneficiaries availing health examinations and consultations from these centers during this period has exceeded 64,000 patients, including 43,000 women and 15,000 children.

Reproductive health services constituted the highest health service provided, extending assistance to over 20,000 women. Simultaneously, more than 16,000 individuals have received vital first aid, encompassing both women and children, with numbers surpassing 7,000 for each group. A considerable 12,000 patients have benefited from follow-up treatments, of which more than 5,000 are women and 5,922 are children. Notably, a chronic diseases survey catered to 12,417 patients, including 9,774 women and 137 children.

Within the Women and Family Centers, 88% of health check-ups were conducted on-site, with the remaining 12% taking place outside the centers within camps or other areas, executed during the volunteers' periodic visits. These off-site services cater to individuals who are unable to reach the centers themselves, encompassing patients who reside in specialized accommodations, including the elderly, those challenged by mobility due to health conditions, and dialysis patient.

Women and Family Health Centers form a fundamental cornerstone of the organization's efforts, serving all affected communities and demographics. Their services complement the foundation's overarching endeavors, contributing significantly to community rehabilitation and steadfast support.