Turkey’s exhausted healthcare workers appeal to gov’t as COVID-19 cases soar

Representatives of Turkish healthcare workers unions gathered in front of the Health Ministry in Ankara on Friday to commemorate workers who have lost their lives to COVID-10 and speak out against extended work hours and increased workloads sparked by pandemic, Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Police formed a barricade around the group, which included members from the Ankara Chamber of Medicine (ATO) and the Turkish Nurses Association (THO), who were joined opposition lawmakers from the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), it said.

"We are dying…. Nobody is hearing our screams,’’ said members of the group, who submitted a list of requests to the Health Ministry to help workers in the sector.

The demands included more transparent governance during the pandemic, steps to prevent violence against the country’s healthcare workers, free childcare for the sector’s workers and a complete listing by the government of workers who have both become infected with Covid-19 and those who have died due to the deadly virus.

The requests arrive as daily coronavirus deaths continue to rise to record-breaking numbers. On Friday, a total of 226 people died after contracting the virus, bringing the country’s total death toll to 15,977.

The increased numbers are wreaking havoc on the country’s healthcare workers, who are overwhelmed by the workload, extended working hours and the virus itself, with over 11 percent of the workers in the field testing positive for COVID-19.

Turkey on Friday recorded 32,106 new coronavirus cases, including asymptomatic ones, in the last 24 hours. 

Meanwhile, the country’s leading health association Friday called on the government for more transparent pandemic data.

Turkey’s total cases since March, when the country recorded its first case, should be closer to 3 million, compared to the 1.7 million cases reported by the Health Ministry, Cumhuriyet newspaper cited Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), as saying.

Health Ministry data indicates that 11.3 percent of Turkey’s 1,060,000 healthcare workers have tested positive for coronavirus, Fincancı said, which points to “three times the infection rate found in the general population (of Turkey).’’

Such a rate calls for “COVID-19 to be considered an occupational illness,’’ she said.