As the country seeks to maintain a balance between restrictions and curbing new cases, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that Turkey exhibited a strong performance against the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at an event in the capital Ankara on Wednesday, Koca said their success is owed to the country’s health care army. “We really have tremendous operational experience and power in pandemic management. Everyone, from staff at neighborhood clinics to contact tracing crews, was behind the success stories that can inspire books and films,” the minister said in his praises in the fight against the pandemic.
Turkey recently started experiencing a surge in the number of virus cases in the aftermath of a normalization process that involved gradual reopening that began earlier this month. Despite the rise, authorities appear to continue following a regional approach against the outbreak which involves tightening restrictions only in areas under high risk. “We have been through a period where we should take lessons, a period that has seen important developments and given us a new experience,” the minister said. He heaped praise on health care personnel at hospitals “who exerted efforts beyond their power to help people and gave us a valuable insight into their lives and into lives they touched.”
“We demonstrated a strong performance that overcame the devastating impact of the pandemic. We have a health care system rare in the world that stood strong in the face of the pandemic. It helped us to develop additional treatment options to global treatment protocols and hence, decreased our losses. We also succeeded in contact tracing, with a rate of 99%, thanks to our powerful monitoring systems,” the minister added.
As countries were trying to weigh the scale of the impact of the virus first reported in China, Turkey was quick to draw guidelines on fighting a possible outbreak. It formed a scientific advisory board to tackle the matter in January 2020 and as soon as the virus made its foray into the country in March, it started establishing contact tracing teams. Composed of health care professionals, the crews go door to door to check for possible contacts of patients who tested positive for coronavirus. They also monitor patients in self-isolation at home.
Koca also credited new hospitals in aiding the fight against the outbreak. “Health care investments, new facilities, have been a subject of pride for all of us in this period,” the minister said. In 2020, a total of 17 large hospitals were built in nine provinces to provide uninterrupted health services. All medical facilities, especially city hospitals, which stand out with their intensive care and bed capacities, played an active role in the country's struggle against COVID-19. City hospitals, which bring together a cluster of different hospitals under one roof in densely populated areas, are the flagship of hospital reforms in the country. With their high staff numbers and state-of-the-art facilities offering free treatment, they helped the country cope with a barrage of cases. Currently, 17 city hospitals serve across the country.
The minister said Turkey was “prepared” to tackle the outbreak while health care systems in other countries went into despair in the face of the pandemic. “But every experience should guide us in the future. We have to conduct scientific studies and should analyze all aspects of our health care system, from its management to industrial capacity,” he underlined.
The minister also highlighted that Turkey shared its resources to fight the pandemic with the world, “as part of its understanding of how civilization is."
"This is not something to boast, on the other hand. We are going through a period where policies, paradigms in this new era hurt public conscience. Even the pandemic failed to deter the mindset which views health care resources as strategic, marketable materials. We have seen that a mindset that will provide fair access to vaccines or knowledge to develop a vaccine for all mankind is still unavailable,” the minister stressed.