July 24, 2021

The depreciation of the lira forces Turkish hospitals to delay operations

The depreciation of the lira forces Turkish hospitals to delay operations



The problems of the Turkish economy, whose most visible symptom is the strong depreciation of the lira, are affecting public health, limiting the purchase of medicines and surgical interventions, report several medical sources and media.

The apparent seriousness of the situation, denied by the Government, has leapt into public debate when an internal document was leaked in which the management of the Gazi University Hospital in Ankara, one of the largest in the country, asked all operating rooms not to perform interventions "if they are not vital".

Several Turkish newspapers have reported on this request, which the management of the center justifies for the lack of sufficient medical material, due to the increase in the price of the products due to the depreciation of the lira.

Sinan Adiyaman, president of the Medical Association of Turkey (TTB), told Efe that Celal Bayar University Hospital, in the province of Manisa, and Ordu Hospital, have sent similar circulars.

"Unfortunately, we may see similar documents in many hospitals in the coming days," he warns Efe.

In fact, the newspaper Cumhuriyet affirms that also the management of the Hospital of the Technical University of the Black Sea (KTU) has asked for the suspension of operations that are not essential.

However, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca denied on Wednesday that hospitals are restricting operations due to lack of resources.

"The assertions that medical expenses are restricted and that hospitals have given these instructions are not true," said the minister, who said that the government will not tolerate failures in the health system with the excuse of saving.

"Most of the material used in surgery departments is imported," explains Adiyaman, who recalls that the official prices for the purchase of medical equipment have not been updated since 2010, date since the lira has lost 70 % of its value with respect to the euro.

This has caused companies to stop importing that equipment or have begun to buy much cheaper material, and not certified, from countries such as China, Pakistan or India.

"If the situation continues like this, even vital interventions can not be taken care of, and the Ministry (of Health) should take urgent measures," Adiyaman claims.

In its circular, the direction of the Gazi University Hospital indicated that the prices demanded by the companies supplying medical material and medicines were above what Turkish social security offers, due to the devaluation of the lira with respect to foreign currencies.

Therefore, that center, with capacity for 1,070 beds, began on October 5 to classify surgical operations as "critical" and "optional", asking that the money available be used only for the former, and that the rest of operations be postponed

"Every case and every patient is vital, a patient can live 40 years with a stone in the gallbladder, but if one day it explodes, then it is a critical case," Surgeon Tunc Celebi denounced in a statement to the Cumhuriyet newspaper.

"You can not know what a disease can evolve if you do not treat it," says this doctor about the risk of dividing the interventions into critical and optional.

Already in September, the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party of the People (CHP), raised a question to the Ministry of Health about the disappearance of 700 drugs from pharmacies.

The deputy Atila Sertel, who asked the question, denounced that the State was still using the change of 2.69 liras per euro, corresponding to January 2015, for its imports of medicines, when the current ratio between the two currencies is almost 7 liras per euro.

Some Turkish media recently reported that about a thousand medicines, many of them essential in the treatment of cancer, can no longer be acquired, because the importing companies have stopped bringing them to the country because what the Administration pays is much less than the price in foreign currency.

"You can save everything but health," denounced Sertel, noting that the budget for medicines has not increased, despite the growing imbalance between the lira and foreign currencies in which medicines are marketed.

In an intervention on Tuesday before his parliamentary group, the leader of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, denounced that the situation in the Gazi University Hospital represents a "sanitary scandal".

"They have put Turkey in this situation," said the social-democratic politician in reference to the Islamist government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Dogan Tilic

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