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Study reveals Turkish state hospitals ill-equipped for mass casualty disasters

A recent study conducted by Fatih University has revealed that most state hospitals are ill-equipped and unprepared for mass-casualty disasters in Turkey.

Fatih University’s Professor Halil Rıdvan Öz, Assistant Professor Fahrettin Eldemir and student Emine Merve Elmas, and the Disaster Medicine Association conducted a joint study in which they examined the issue of whether Turkish state hospitals are prepared for mass casualty disasters — chemical, natural, epidemiological, biological, nuclear-radiological and explosive-incendiary — on the table.

The study, supported by the Ministry of Health, investigated 284 state hospitals in 78 provinces across Turkey, excluding the three large cities of İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir, whose hospitals’ readiness is much better than other hospitals throughout Turkey.

The participants responded to questionnaires prepared by Fatih University to measure the disaster response effectiveness of the state hospitals for any possible disaster, the knowledge and effectiveness of healthcare personnel regarding how to medically respond to emergency patients injured in any disaster and how well prepared state hospitals are for disasters.

According to the study, out of a maximum score of four points, the overall average for the hospitals was 2.2, meaning most state hospitals are not fully prepared for disasters. The hospitals with the lowest points are from Turkey’s most earthquake-prone areas, while the hospitals with the highest points are from cities with a low risk of experiencing an earthquake, which the researchers say is thought-provoking.

State hospitals from eastern and southeastern Turkey outpaced state hospitals of other regions in the disaster preparedness issue. State hospitals from the Aegean and Central Anatolia regions failed, having the lowest points in the survey.

Öz, who spoke to the Bugün daily, said because the disaster preparedness of state hospitals in İstanbul, İzmir and Ankara are known to be sufficient, they did not include these cities in the survey and added that state hospital in other cities have more problems in terms of disaster response effectiveness.

Stating that Turkey is a country very prone to natural disasters as it is crisscrossed by many active fault lines, Öz said hospitals’ disaster (emergency preparedness) plans should be prepared in advance by each hospital, and that these plans should be updated every six months. “Inspectors from the Ministry of Health should check the effectiveness and updates of these plans periodically,” Öz noted.

The survey also contains the views of renowned disaster specialist Donald Walsh, who said that if Turkey had taken the necessary measures and adopted an effective disaster response system after the deadly earthquake of Aug. 17, 1999 [which killed more than 18,000 and injured over 48,000 people], it would not have had so many losses in the recent earthquake that took place on Oct. 23, 2011, in Van province. “Some of the people pulled out of the collapsed buildings were alive but died at the hospitals because nobody knew what to do. This system [preparing hospital disaster plans] aims to prevent such losses,” Walsh noted.

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