The availability of an effective referral system is one of the basic necessities to secure comprehensive health care for patients during crises, due to the difficulty of securing an adequate distribution of health services.
SRD works to link health facilities of different levels of health care together in coordination with health directorates through a referral system supported by an ambulance system.
An effective referral system ensures a close relationship between all levels of the health system and helps to ensure people receive the best possible care closest to home. It also assists in making cost-effective use of hospitals and primary health care services. Support to health centres and outreach services by experienced staff from the hospital or district health office helps build capacity and enhance access to better quality care. In many developing countries, a high proportion of clients seen at the outpatient clinics at secondary facilities could be appropriately looked after at primary health care centres at lower overall cost to the client and the health system. A good referral system can help to ensure:
• Clients receive optimal care at the appropriate level and not unnecessarily costly
• Hospital facilities are used optimally and cost-effectively
• Clients who most need specialist services can accessing them in a timely way
• Primary health services are well utilized and their reputation is enhanced
Providing emergency transport through a network of ambulances and trained paramedics ensures that patients are able to rapidly reach facilities. Referral services provide link facilities that are able to receive such emergency patients and also transport any cold-cases who lack access to transportation. This has proven essential in the COVID-19 response.
To ensure continuity of care and enhance access in northern Syria, Western Aleppo countryside and Afrin district in Aleppo, SRD coordinates with 35 partners inside Syria to implement a unified referral system where standardized operating procedures (SOPs), processes and forms are in place and being used across 160 health facilities from different levels and services during 2019. The system provides emergency life-saving and cold-case (nonemergency) patient transport.