Interview: Bilge Bora – Disaster management missions
Bilge Bora, General Manager of marm assistance, spoke to ITIJ about the earthquake devastation in Turkey, cost containment, and what’s next for the business
After the powerful earthquakes hit 11 cities in Turkey, what is happening in the region now, and what are the aftereffects?
On 6 February, Turkey woke up to the news of the most destructive disaster in its history. Having experienced several earthquakes before, the marm assistance disaster management team organised a list of potential needs in the region, and both medical and roadside teams travelled there. Roadside teams organised towing services for the cars covered by debris to ease search and rescue. Marm also established a container clinic in the first few days, and since then, two doctors and nurses have been working on rotation for the victims in the area. Marm added two more containers later – one is being used as a bathroom and the other is to provide a space for psychological support. Both teams also supported the foreign rescuers and translators.
Marm visited all its service providers in the earthquake region three times during this period. The visits were performed not only to check on their needs, but also to keep an uninterrupted service to our partners by picturing and fixing gaps in the network. This operation is going to be a long-term recovery, and marm will continue to provide assistance on the spot for survivors – either individuals or service provider partners.
Marm also established a container clinic in the first few days, and since then, two doctors and nurses have been working on rotation for the victims in the area
Are there any new projects that are next for marm?
Marm has been providing telemedicine services to its partners since the beginning of the pandemic. The in-house medical doctors and nurses have been meeting with the patients via chat, video or telephone. We have also been working on adding telehealth to the service scope. The finalisation of the regulations took over nine months and completed at the beginning of 2023. Marm is registered as a ‘Home Care Centre’ by the Ministry of Health and has started to provide telehealth services.
What are the advantages of being Home Care Centre?
In telemedicine services, the marm medical team is using telecommunication technologies to diagnose patients, follow up on health records, and make recommendations. Being a Home Care Centre allows marm to provide telehealth services that allow our doctors to prescribe medication. Other than that, being a telehealth company allows marm to expand its medical scope in medical management including educating trainees and monitoring patients.
One of the most important values in assistance services is cost containment. Is there any improvement in that perspective?
We launched in 1986, and being one of the first in the assistance sector, marm invested in artificial intelligence to use the know-how for automated systems and evidence-based medicine (EBM). The purpose is cost prevention rather than cost containment. After the initial automatic control by EBM, the marm medical team, including eight in-house doctors and five nurses, then evaluate each cost breakdown line by line to perform a final cost containment. Marm is in close contact with hospitals, clinics, dialysis centres and other medical facilities. The facilities are assessed periodically by our network and cost containment teams.
Would you inform us about other missions the medical team perform?
Every year we perform 1,000 ground ambulance transports globally, 80 air ambulance missions, and 200 medical escort missions. The marm assistance in-house medical escort team has extensive experience and know-how in repatriation to and from the MENA region, plus other countries where there may be operational difficulties due to sanctions. Our escort team includes members who are fluent in English, German, Arabic and Persian. Our in-house medical escort team have certifications of basic and advanced courses in aviation medicine by EUSAM, Germany; clinical considerations in aeromedical transport; American Heart Association ACLS and BLS; trauma and resuscitation courses; emergency module training; and pediatric advanced life support.