Turkish Health Ministry's negligence leads to 72 deaths in quakes at public hospital

Turkey’s Health Ministry declined the Hatay Public Hospital’s request for strengthening the building citing the “lack of funds” a year before the devastating Feb. 6 earthquakes. More than 70 people died after the hospital building collapsed during quakes.

Duvar English

It has been revealed that there were multiple correspondences between the Hatay Education and Research Hospital Directorate, Provincial Health Directorate, and the Health Ministry in 2021-2022 for the strengthening of the hospital building, which collapsed in the Feb. 6 earthquakes, resulting in the loss of 72 lives.

The ministry declined the request, citing “lack of funds,” according to daily Sözcü columnist İsmail Saymaz who got access the investigation file launched against the former provincial health director and the hospital’s chief physician.

Saymaz reported that all three administrative units knew that all blocks of the hospital were found not to be resistant to earthquakes and that the building should either be demolished or reinforced.

However, the ministry did not provide 997.7 million Turkish lira ($33.9) for the earthquake reinforcement, saying the hospital could pay from its circulating capital 10 month before quakes.

Saymaz also stated that the building was decided to be strengthened against earthquake in 2011, but this decision was not implemented and its location was not changed as well so that the pharmacies near it would not suffer losses.

Zoning directorate rejects application of residents died in quake

Journalist Timur Soykan also revealed that the residents of Ezgi Apartment Building -in the epicenter Kahramanmaraş province- in 2021 petitioned against the patisserie in the building, which cut the columns of the ground floor.

An investigation has being carried out against the fugitive owners of the patisserie, which is known to be close to the government, regarding the death of 35 people in the apartment complex.

Documents related to the investigation carried out against public officials were also included in the file 10 months after the earthquake.

It was revealed that the residents of the building signed a petition to the Provincial Directorate of Environment and Urbanization on Sep. 14, 2021, expressing their concerns that the renovation of the patisserie was damaging the building.

In the response letter signed by Sait Avşar, Head of Zoning and Urbanization Directorate in the district, it was stated that the teams carried out an inspection and no violation to the architectural project was found.

Many of the signatories of the petition died, the survivors were those who were not in the apartment block at the time of the earthquake.

The Interior Ministry has not yet authorized the prosecution of public officials and the investigation is still ongoing. Avşar is still head of the Zoning and Urbanization Directorate.