Translated from Turkish by Translators for justice
January 15th, 2016
“Don’t turn family healthcare centers numbered 2 and 3 in Bağlar, Diyarbakır into police stations, let the family health centers re-open!”
IMPRESSIONS OF DIYARBAKIR BY THE TURKISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
FAMILY MEDICS BRANCH
The climate of violence ongoing in areas such as Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Cizre, Nusaybin, Silopi, Dargecit deeply upsets medics such as myself, as it does to all sections of society.
Healthcare workers are being killed or threatened in areas dominated by the violent environment.
In some areas, healthcare facilities such as hospitals, Family Healthcare Centers, etc. are being closed down and turned into police stations and headquarters.
In circumstances where the safety of life is not provided sufficiently, healthcare professionals continue to serve with devotion.
While 3 Family Healthcare Centers in Sur, Diyarbakir have been closed down for 50 days, now 2 additional ones in Baglar, Diyarbakir (a town with a population equivalent to the city of Kirklareli’s) may be shut down.
A delegation consisting of representatives from the Turkish Medical Association Central Council and the Turkish Medical Association Family Medics Branch visited Diyarbakir on January 15, 2016. The visit took place upon receiving information about the possibility of Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3 in Diyarbakir being turned into police stations. The delegation visited Diyarbakir in order to meet with healthcare workers from Family Healthcare Centers in the area, primarily that of Baglar Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3, and representatives from local public authorities.
Among the representatives in the delegation were:
Turkish Medical Association Central Council members Dr. Filiz Unal and Dr. Seyhmus Gokalp, Turkish Medical Association Family Healthcare Branch Head Dr. Fethi Bozcali, Turkish Medical Association Family Healthcare Branch Secretary Dr. Yasar Ulutas, Turkish Medical Association Family Healthcare Branch Executive members Dr. Celal Canpolat and Dr. Selahattin Oguz, and Diyarbakir Chamber of Medics President Dr. Cengiz Gunay.
GENERAL SITUATION IN THE CITY
In the town of Sur, considered to be the center of Diyarbakir and which gives the city character through its historic texture, symbolic landmarks, houses and marketplaces, curfews started 50 days ago as well as armed conflicts are going on.
Civilians are prohibited to pass through the area called Dortyol, considered to be the heart of the Diyarbakir city center. At the corners of streets situated at the most central location of the city and which are prohibited to enter by state security officials, we see armored police vehicles and ambulances that carry the wounded during constant conflicts. Thunderous artillery and gunshots, going on day and night, are heard.
It is told that a large part of Sur’s population of 30,000 (making up the most crowded and the poorest population of the city) had to leave their homes. Families were broken up. People are trying to settle in relatively untroubled areas or in areas where their relatives live. Some of them are moving back to their villages, and the ones that stayed put in the city are not heard from.
All those who live in town are talking about the houses and landmarks destroyed by howitzers in Sur, the town which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Everyone in town is very anxious. There is anxiety due to the ambiguity of when the conflicts and curfews are going to end. In the area where the curfew was declared, places like many branches of banks, historical or touristic shops, hotels and hospitals are closed. This situation has paralyzed the whole economic, commercial, social and cultural life. Merchants who are not able to open their shops for days are desperate, helpless and furious. Constant gunfire, howitzers and news of the dead heard by the people of the town have worsened the situation for them and the ambiguity has resulted in emotional turmoil.
THE SITUATION OF FAMILY HEALTHCARE CENTERS IN DIYARBAKIR
We learn from Diyarbakir Public Healthcare Manager that 3 nine-unit Family Healthcare Centers in Sur, numbered 4, 9 and 12, which are the first step in healthcare service to a population of around 30 000, have been closed for 45 days due to ongoing conflicts and curfews.
It is told that, again, the Family Healthcare Centers of Iskenderpasa and Alipasa, which are located in Sur, cannot serve from time to time due to the same reasons. However, we cannot visit those Family Healthcare Centers because of security concerns.
We visited Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3 in Baglar, in the center of Diyarbakir. These healthcare centers with 10 family healthcare units, which are trying to be turned into police stations, cater to a population of around 60,000, of whom 40,000 are registered while the rest are Syrian unregistered patients immigrating from the town of Sur. The family healthcare center, serving on a 600-m2 area in the region since 1963, is densely populated with pregnant women and babies. The center, a comfortable option for the economically disadvantaged people in getting their vaccines and medical checks, has also opened its doors in recent months to people migrating obligatorily from Sur. The workers of Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3 welcomed our committee warmly yet anxiously. They stated that police officers had come by a few times to check the premises that they will turn into a police station. The workers also say that there is not any other building in the region as big as the current one for healthcare service, that there are no suitable construction-permitted and safe buildings, and that people in the region would be miserable should the family healthcare center closed down.
THE FAMILY HEALTHCARE CENTERS VISITED AND WHAT HEALTHCARE WORKERS SAID
Our delegation visited some Family Healthcare Centers in Diyarbakir (Kayapinar Family Healthcare Center numbered 10, Baglar Family Healthcare Center numbered 8 and 9, Baglar Family Healthcare Center numbered 2 and 3) and spoke to healthcare workers.
We observed during the meetings that doctors and other healthcare personnel are deeply affected by the conflicts and curfews in the city.
The workers of Family Healthcare Centers expressed that the number of patients had risen due to thousands of families moving out of Sur and that dozens of people have to now live in tiny homes. This population therefore depends upon the workers of Family Healthcare Centers giving out beds and blankets. The personnel stated that people are concerned about getting caught up in a conflict and being hurt, and that the situation is the same essentially for the healthcare personnel’s mental state. We were told that children are the ones most affected by the non-stop sounds of howitzers, and that they are in constant worry of hearing bad news, and that they are scared to be targets of a blind shot inside their homes.
MEETINGS WITH PUBLIC HEALTHCARE DIRECTORATE AND THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
First, our delegation met with the president of the Diyarbakir Association for Active Family Physicians, Dr. Mehmet Ulbegi and a member of the association’s board of directors, Dr. Kamil Ergin.
Later, we met with Diyarbakir Public Healtcare Director Dr. Fatih M. Aslan. Dr. Kemal Ergin, a member of the Diyarbakir Association for Active Family Physicians Board of Directors, also attended the meeting with our delegation on behalf of his association.
The agenda of our meeting with the Public Healthcare Director included the intentions to vacate the buildings of Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3 in Baglar in order to turn it into a police station, the state of Family Healthcare Centers which are closed down, the safety of life of healthcare personnel and the heavy working conditions they have to endure, as well as people’s medical needs which are under restriction.
The Director of Public Healthcare, Dr. Aslan, sincerely expressed that the processes for vacating the Family Healthcare Centers in Baglar are being done without their initiative and out of their control, that there is no other building as big and as well-located in the area to give the same service, that the current legislation is not suitable for creating an alternative, and that he does not find this practice correct because people’s right to healthcare will be undermined once the building is vacated.
Dr. Aslan stated that they are doing all they can to compensate the losses of workers of closed Family Healthcare Centers. Due to the Family Physicians wage system being based on performance, the workers of Family Healthcare Centers are negatively affected and they will have a hard time going back to their registered offices once they can return to work. Dr. Aslan also pointed out that they still could not overcome such issues as the responsibility for compensation of tools inside the damaged Silvan Family Healthcare Center that is begin given to Family Doctors.
Lastly, our delegation shortly met with Diyarbakir Deputy Governor in charge of healthcare services, Taner Bircan.
Deputy Governor Bircan stated that there is no official decision regarding vacating Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3, and even if there is such a decision, the building won’t be vacated before a new Family Healthcare Center building in better conditions is supplied, and that they won’t allow any interruptions in healthcare services.
Interviews done throughout the day with local administrators were shared once again at a meeting in Diyarbakir Chamber of Physicians, which brought us together with the workers of Family Healthcare Centers numbered 2 and 3. The workers have expressed their content with our initiative, and we conveyed our message that the support of the Turkish Medical Association will continue.
- Townspeople should not be denied basic rights such as the safety of life, housing, food and healthcare.
- The safety of life should be provided for all healthcare workers, safe working conditions should be created, conditions for healthcare services that consider personnel’s professional values and guards people’s health should be generated.
- Whatever the circumstances are, healthcare centers should continue their existence, and should not be closed down or used for other purposes and while begin targeted.
- The buildings of closed down healthcare institutions should be preserved, and damages in Family Healthcare Centers should be compensated.
- All Family Healthcare Centers and other healthcare institutions closed down should be reopened.
- Conflicts in the city and the region should end right away and necessary steps to bring life back to its normal pace should be taken rapidly.
Turkish Medical Association Central Council
Turkish Medical Association Family Medics Branch