SES: The Health System in Turkey collapsed with the pandemic

One of the most urgent and important problems experienced by healthcare professionals in the field today is the lack of personal protective equipment.

In many parts of the world, health workers, doctors and nurses who are exposed to the coronavirus have lost their lives. 

In Turkey, tests are not done not just to people but often to medical personnel. 

Gönül Erden, co-chair of the Health and Social Workers' Union (SES), talked to ANF about what the healthcare professionals who are currently struggling with the pandemic are experiencing.

What is the current situation in hospitals and what are the primary needs?

One of the most urgent and important problems experienced by healthcare professionals in the field today is the lack of personal protective equipment.

We are not just talking about gloves or masks. Personal protective equipment varies according to the service, the patient being looked after and the task performed. However, today we are informed that personal protective equipment in hospitals is extremely insufficient. This tells us that healthcare workers are risking their lives. We always say this: it is not possible to protect the health of the society without protecting healthcare workers, especially in such a period. These personal protective equipment should be provided to every healthcare worker. 

So, what kind of problems are they facing?

One of our other main problems is the lack of employees. Health services already suffered from lack of personnel. But with Covid 19, this is getting deeper. Because, especially during epidemic periods, both scientists and the World Health Organization underline the following: Working hours should be shortened, workload should be reduced, break times should be extended, overtime should be lifted, and 24-hour shifts should be prohibited. To do all this, there must be a sufficient number of health workers. But there is a huge deficiency in the field today.

The return of workers dismissed with the KHK decree is frequently discussed, but on the other hand, the minister announced that 32 thousand new personnel will be recruited. 

The minister talked about 32 thousand people, but from the very beginning we say that the needs in the field of health need to be determined in a planning including health organizations. Because it is important to establish exactly in which area there is shortage of personnel. Also, these appointments must be safe. Because 32 thousand personnel announced will be contracted. This is not true. We have already said from the beginning that there are hundreds of thousands of people waiting to meet this shortage. We have health workers, who have been working for many years, who have been unfairly and illegally dismissed from their jobs with the Decree Law. It is an unfair practice to dismiss those people from their profession. Regardless of the Covid 19 outbreak, they must already be reinstated to their professions. However, in this period, we have thousands of young friends who have not been appointed due to a security investigation despite the decision of the Constitutional Court.

One of the most controversial issues is the widespread testing and the emergence of cases accordingly. So how much testing is done to healthcare workers?

The number of tests currently in Turkey is very low. Although it was a figure that approached around 3 thousand and then 7 thousand at first, this is an insufficient test rate in the scope of the fight against Covid 19. Because the most critical thing in this outbreak is to do a lot of tests, diagnose patients quickly and isolate them in order to stop the spreading of the infection.

While the number of tests needs to be increased, our friends experience a serious problem in this regard. Very few health workers are tested. On the other hand, health workers who are in contact with a patient with Covid-19 need to be quarantined at home or otherwise, but this is also not applied. This poses a risk to healthcare workers. The risk of transmission increases because there is contact with other healthcare professionals and patients who have not yet been diagnosed. Therefore, Covid-19 test must be done to healthcare professionals. The Ministry of Health has confirmed that there are already a number of healthcare professionel who tested positive with Covid-19.

Can hospitals meet the capacity if the outbreak increases?

As healthcare workers, all our efforts are to control this epidemic. Our primary duty is to slow down the spreading of the epidemic, to ensure the improvement of patients in some way, to reduce or even eliminate mortality rates.

We hope that this epidemic does not spread very quickly, but since 11 March, unfortunately we see a quick increase in positive cases. If this trend is confirmed hospitals would face a serious problem. Beds, intensive care services, number of devices may not be enough. 

So, what can be done about private hospitals in this case. What is their condition?

The President of the Association of Private Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations Reşat Bahat actually said it openly: "Let's the state use our hospitals, pay the salaries and needs of our employees throughout the pandemic. Because we cannot afford this." This statement reveals the situation of private hospitals. In fact, when we look at the situation in private, state and university research hospitals we see that the shortages affect all of them. The health policy in Turkey with this pandemic has simply collapsed."