With its first novel coronavirus (COVID-19) case officially confirmed on March 11, Turkey has been “normalizing” since June 1.The country now witnesses an increasing number of cases, inpatients and intensive care patients. That being the case, the already heavy workload of health workers has increased even more, which has led them to resign.
Against this backdrop, we have spoken with Antep Medical Chamber Chair Ayşegül Ateş, Batman Medical Chamber Chair Selahattin Oğuz and Health and Social Service Laborers’ Union (SES) Batman Branch Chair Deniz Topkan about why health workers resign and how this can be solved. All three have stressed that health workers are now exhausted.
Ateş: 760 health workers infected in Antep
According to their estimates, 760 health workers have been infected in Antep by the end of July, Antep Medical Chamber Chair Ateş says, adding:
“This number is probably over 800 now. The gradually increasing number of cases also increases the occupancy rates of hospitals and the workload of health workers. They are now having great anxiety and uncertainty.
“News of resignations are coming from several public hospitals. Almost 10 physicians have so far resigned from every public hospital.”
‘Both economic and mental burnout’
Underlining that health workers do not feel safe, Ateş says, “They suffer from both an economic and mental burnout. No one can see the future. Working conditions are not suitable for the pandemic, they are working really hard, which increases the risk of getting infected. People are anxious that they will bring the virus to their home and family and get them infected.
‘If health workers collapse, health system will collapse’
“A fellow colleague working in an intensive care unit has recently said, ‘Resignations have increased; I am also done now, I will resign, too…’ The colleague that I am talking about has been working really hard and selflessly since the first day of the outbreak. But the current situation is burnout.
“If health workers are no more, the healthcare system will collapse. We cannot combat the outbreak like that. We still have autumn and winter ahead of us. A long-term planning is needed. It needs to be considered that this process will continue like this till spring 2021 and do something accordingly.”
‘They are paid less by almost 70 percent’
Ateş also notes that the additional payments of healthcare workers are not made in full, but they are paid less by almost 70 percent. Underlining that health workers are having financial difficulties as well, Ateş says:
“The additional payments are made from the budget of hospitals based on the performance of health workers. As hospitals do not admit normal patients in this process, hospitals can have no budget.
“Health workers’ additional payments are now less than what they had before the pandemic. They are paid less by almost 70 percent.
“An economic breakdown is just added to the mental breakdown. Health workers are now having both a mental and economic burnout.”
‘They need to be supported materially, emotionally’
Ateş underlines that healthcare workers need to be supported to prevent resignations. Concluding her remarks, she says:
“They need to be offered material and emotional support. Psychosocial support lines need to be established, the Ministry of Finance should intervene and additional payments must be made. Health workers do not feel safe. That is why they resign. If the pandemic is recognized as an occupational disease, everyone will feel safe and work more efficiently.”
Oğuz: 10 physicians resigned in Batman
Batman Medical Chamber Chair Selahattin Oğuz also says that with the increasing number of cases, the number of resignations has also increased:
“As of June 1, 10 physicians resigned from the Batman Regional Public Hospital. Some of them have started working in private hospitals, some of them have left Batman.
“Till now, three radiologists, two ophthalmologists, two infectious diseases physicians, two pulmonologists and one brain surgeon have resigned. They are having quite a number of problems in the field. They informed their executives about these problems, but could not develop a solution.
‘More serious decisions must be taken’
“We foresaw that such things could happen after June 1. We said that the working conditions of healthcare workers had to be arranged accordingly, but it was not taken into account. They should – at least – consider our recommendations from now on.
“We cannot fight the pandemic by giving the whole responsibility to society. They need to take more serious decisions, they need to follow it up. If we enter winter with these numbers, we will have greater problems.”
Topkan: 15 nurses have requested their retirement
SES Batman Branch Chair Deniz Topkan also says that 15 nurses have so far applied for retirement and adds:
“Several colleagues of ours have caught COVID-19 because of their working conditions, because they could not take a leave.
“Resignations have started as a result of the burnout caused by work conditions. Some nurses have requested their retirement.
“There had already been pressure before June 1. Everyone had been nervous. There were 660 cases and eight deaths in Batman before June. 11 fellow health workers got infected in that period.
“But, now, the number of positive cases has exceeded 10 thousand and the number of infected health workers has hit 600.”
‘They now work on call every other day’
“The higher the number of cases, the higher the workload,” Topkan indicates further, concluding his remarks briefly as follows:
“When health workers get infected too, the number of health workers drops. Another health worker works for the infected person as well.
“Health workers have started to be on call every other day. Taken together with the recently opened intensive care services, 450 patients are now hospitalized in the 350-bed regional hospital. They used to send us patients from districts, we now send them patients.”