Müzeyyen Yüce / DUVAR
The removal of certain precautions taken against the coronavirus in Turkey has resulted in it spreading from Istanbul toward Anatolia and may result in highly chaotic hospital environments in the coming months, doctors warn.
Many private, public and university hospitals were turned into pandemic hospitals in the three months following the first case of coronavirus in Turkey. Non-emergency surgeries and treatments have been postponed. After the daily number of new cases in the country steadily decreased, a normalization process was launched, including the removal of intercity travel bans, the resumption of international flights, and the opening of all health polyclinics as of June 1.
Turkish Medical Association (TTB) chair Sinan Adıyaman stressed that a fall in the number of cases does not entail any decrease in the infectiousness of the virus, and emphasized that the pandemic is still ongoing:
“We had said that the virus would spread from Istanbul to Anatolia with the reopening process that began on June 1. After the lifting of travel restrictions, we are now witnessing an increase in cases in cities like Diyarbakır and Gaziantep. This can be seen clearly when looking at the figures from the past three days,” Adıyaman told Duvar.
The reopening of polyclinics has also resulted in an alarming rise in the number of healthcare workers who have tested positive for the virus:
“Minister [of Health Fahrettin] Koca announced that 7,600 healthcare workers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. There are 416 in Ankara alone. During this process there are hospitals that have begun to decline to admit Covid-19 patients but the number of these are insufficient,” Adıyaman said.
Meanwhile, the newly reopened polyclinics have witnessed a swift wave of patients as many people consider them as the safest option. This has resulted in people coming for primary care when they should have applied for secondary care, according to TTB's family healthcare chair Filiz Ünal:
“During this period, the profile of our patients has changed, and the number of patients has increased. There is serious accumulation in the polyclinic services. Since people don't want to spend a long time at the hospital, they apply to the family practices. Primary care health services increased in an unplanned fashion,” Ünal told Duvar.
Ünal warned that the heavy workload in the polyclinics has resulted in chaos, and alongside it an uptick in Covid-19 cases:
“At the moment there is one medical secretary for every ten doctors. In this situation it is impossible for the secretary to establish an appointment system. There should be one medical secretary for every doctor. If things continue like this, by September the polyclinics and hospitals will be ensnared in chaos. The consequence of this will be flaws in healthcare services,” Ünal said.