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Analysis: Learn from the Turkey health system

The new coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19) has reversed the health service system in most European countries.

This outbreak also shows many shortcomings of most health care systems around the world who are currently struggling to overcome various challenges.

Decades of austerity measures practiced by Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom have led to substantial budget cuts and a lack of investment in the national health system.

This policy has seriously resulted in a lack of important supporting facilities, hospital beds, and medical personnel.

In contrast, the Turkey health system has managed to handle the pandemic well, through effective crisis management and strong infrastructure development outcomes over the past decade of the AK Party government.
Analysis: Learn from the Turkey health system
The atmosphere at MAKSAM and the mask factory, which is affiliated with the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Company to produce medical masks on April 22, 2020, in Ankara, Turkey. Work in the factory, which has an important role in the production of personal protective equipment in the fight against coronavirus, continues for 7 days and 24 hours without stopping. Turkey's Ministry of National Defense has reached 10 million mask production per week as part of the struggle against the coronavirus. (Özge Elif Kızıl - Anadolu Agency)

Inadequate medical equipment and testing equipment

Lack of testing and lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) remains a crucial problem in many European countries.

In Spain, one of the countries with the highest Covid-19 deaths in Europe, the government has been criticized for not preparing medical equipment early.

More than 31 thousand health professionals were exposed to Covid-19 because of a lack of PPE, according to the El Pais newspaper.

On April 21, the Spanish Ministry of Health acknowledged that a lack of PPE caused infections among many medical workers.

Likewise, Britain urgently needs PPE.

After Turkish medical assistance arrived in the country on April 10, the United Kingdom formally requested that Turkey provide another 400 thousand pieces of PPE, including N95 face masks for Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

A plane with thousands of surgical uniforms and 84 tons of PPE from Turkey then arrived in England on April 22.

The plane came at the right time to help Britain in the war against the pandemic.

Also, Britain conducts far less testing than other European countries.

Despite Health Minister Matt Hancock's promise to increase testing to 500,000 a week at the end of April, Britain is still carrying around 20,000 tests a day, a number far lower than the government's target.

While many European countries need more PPE and cannot provide sufficient equipment for medical personnel, Turkey produces its own PPE and provides masks to its citizens and official residents free of charge.

Turkey is launching a website where citizens and official residents can register to receive five surgical masks per week.

The masks were then sent to their homes by the national postal service for free.

While it is true that the pandemic reached Turkey slower than most European countries, testing was carried out by Turkey at a much higher speed than many European countries.

Since the first Covid-19 case on March 11, Turkey has conducted more than 800 thousand tests.

This makes Turkey ranked number seven in the world in terms of testing Covid-19.

The health system is declining

The lack of intensive care units (ICU), ventilators, and hospital beds are also a common problem in Europe.

Hospital capacity in France, Spain, and Italy has been limited to the maximum.

As a result, ships, trains, and exhibition halls were transformed into giant health centers.

Countries, such as Spain and Italy, experience a serious shortage of ICU and intensive care staff.

Therefore, doctors are forced to prioritize ICU care for patients with the best chance of survival.

Even though the number of Covid-19 cases has increased in Turkey, reaching nearly 120 thousand, the ICU occupancy rate in hospitals has still not reached 70 percent.

Turkey has the largest number of ICU beds per 100,000 people compared to most European countries.

In Turkey, there are nearly 46 ICU beds per 100,000 people, according to 2018 data from the Ministry of Health, while the US has 34.7 beds and Germany has 29.2 beds.

'City Hospital' was built as part of the Turkish Health Transformation Program (HTP).

The program was implemented between 2003-2013 to improve the health sector in Turkey by the AK Party government.

The program then became important and of great importance in the fight against the coronary virus.

The Basaksehir City Hospital, which is expected to serve 32,700 patients every day with a total capacity of 2,682 beds and an indoor construction area of ​​1 million square meters, was partially opened on April 20 to serve as a pandemic hospital until the crisis ended.

According to Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, the hospital will be the largest in Europe in terms of ICU capacity after completion.

Also, the Turkish Ministry of Industry and Technology has started a private-public venture and introduced the first phase of a nationally produced ventilator.

As the first shipment, 100 ventilators were sent to Basaksehir City Hospital, and another 5,000 will be sent in May.

Turkey's mortality rate in this period is also one of the lowest compared to many European countries.

The death rate in Turkey is 2.3 percent compared with 10.5 percent in Spain, 13.2 percent in Italy, 17.3 percent in France, and 13.5 percent in the United Kingdom.

The model is worth emulating

Turkey's struggle against the pandemic is extraordinary.

Crisis management strategies and the country's health care system, which have been significantly improved over the past decade, are lessons for many countries today.

Covid-19 has challenged most European countries to limit and expose deficiencies in most health care systems.

However, this pandemic paved the way for rethinking health strategies in Europe and the world.

Turkey's health service model, which is manifested in strong planning, resilience, and adequate commitment, should be emulated by all countries.

Enes Guzel

- The author is a research representative at the TRT World Research Center.
* The views expressed in this article are the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the editorial policies of Anadolu Agency.

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