Turkey’s first pandemic hospital turned over to top religious body

Turkey’s first pandemic hospital has been transferred to the country’s top state religious body to be transformed into an Islamic education centre, Sözcü newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Heybeliada Sanitorum, located on Heybeliada island in the Marmara Sea will be turned over the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate, along with the 200 acres of land that surrounds the facility, it said.

The sanatorium, which focused on battling tuberculosis, was opened in 1924, on the orders of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. The Health Ministry shut down the 660-bed capacity facility in 2005 and the building has been idle since.

“It does not suit our national interests to shut down this hospital, which for 80 years served the Turkish nation, specialising in pulmonary and thoracic surgery,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Umut Oran said.

The report arrives as two new pandemic hospitals went into service this year in nearby Istanbul to battle Turkey’s deadly coronavirus epidemic.

Turkey’s religious directorate has come under criticism for its ever-growing budget and expenditures under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The body’s Jan.-April budget exceeded that of seven of the country’s key ministries, according to Cumhuriyet newspaper.