In Hatay, state hospitals struggle to cope with war-wounded Syrians
An influx of refugees in Hatay has left state hospitals in the province struggling to meet the needs of the local population.
By Emiko Jozuka for SES Türkiye in Reyhanli -- 12/09/12
When Hatice D. rushed to the emergency section of Reyhanli State Hospital with her ill 6-year-old daughter, the last thing she expected was to be turned away. But that day, their arrival coincided with heavy fighting in Syrian town of Azaz, and the emergency section was already crammed with injured people. Hatice was told that it would be a long wait.
She saw a private physician instead.
"I feel sorry for all the civilians suffering in Syria, but being turned away from my own hospital made me feel like a second-class citizen in my own country," Hatice, who would not give her last name, told SES Türkiye.
As the tide of refugees in Turkish camps tops 80,000 and hospitals busy from the 18-month fighting across the nearby border, many in Hatay have had to turn to the private medical sector and pay extra money for treatment.
The crowding and tensions are among the reasons why the government began moving refugees away from the border this week. In addition to the 80,000 in camps, another 40,000 are living in rented housing in the region.
Ankara is asking refugees who legally crossed the border to travel far north inside Turkey and obtain a visa. Those who do not have paperwork are being asked to resettle in a refugee camp.
Dr Selim Maktap, the president of Hatay's Medical Chamber, said that the problem did not come from the Syrian refugees living within the camps because they are provided with on-site medical care. Rather, the overcrowding stems largely from Syrians living in rented apartments and the wounded.
As a result, the workload of staff at state hospitals in Hatay has more than doubled over the last year.
"The number of operations per week have doubled or tripled in most cases. Of course this load is psychologically heavy on the surgeons," Maktap said.
Opposition CHP MP Refik Eryilmaz said Turkish citizens are having trouble getting quality care at hospitals near the border. .
"There are no spaces available in the intensive care unit," Eryilmaz said. "As a member of parliament, I often get calls from people telling me that their children, their wives are ill and they can't find a space at the hospital."
Sadik Nazik, a member of the Hatay Medical Chamber, said Turkish patients in need of emergency attention are the ones most affected by the consequences of the conflict in Syria.
"All the intensive care units are full at the moment. In my opinion, it is locals in need of emergency and intensive care treatment that lose out the most. As there isn't any room in intensive care, if someone suffers a heart attack or has an accident, they won't be able to receive sufficient treatment and might be transferred to a hospital in either Adana or Mersin. There's a possibility for these people to die en route," Nazik said.
In order to take some of the workload off state hospital staff, and to provide better medical care for Turkish patients, Maktap said the establishment of a temporary field hospital might work to the benefit of both Turkish citizens and Syrians.
"Opening a temporary field hospital might solve the issue of overcrowded hospitals, and help ease the tension between Syrians and locals in Hatay. A team of experienced, foreign surgeons that are used to working under war conditions could be approved by the ministry to work there temporarily."