After Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca declared different numbers of Covid-19 cases on the same day, the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) told YetkinReport that the latter’s figures do not include patients who were admitted without a test.
“We do not reveal any figures. The Health Ministry does. Comparing the information by the ministry as of March 25 with [and the figures by the president] and studying the data from our 65 branches across the country, we spotted the reason for the difference,” said TTB chair Sinan Adıyaman.
The Health Minister said on March 25 that the number of cases in Turkey stood at 2,433, way below the figure pronounced by the president, 8,554. The minister said on March 26 that the number of cases increased to 7,286, with the death toll hitting 75.
The figure given by Minister Koca is limited to the number of patients two were tested positive for the virus but Erdoğan’s figure also includes the patients who were diagnosed with the illness due to clinical and radiological findings and treated at hospitals, Adıyaman said.
“Thus, we can say that the figure provided by Erdoğan is correct,” he added.
‘The gap between the two figures stand at 6,121 patients, which is more than doubles the Ministry data. So we can say that coronavirus tests in Turkey do not show the real figures and fail to help calculate the real scale of the outbreak. For an effective struggle against the illness what we need is the real number of people who are infected, not the number of “positive tests.”
Transparency a must for effective struggle against Covid-19
Adıyaman quoted the minister as saying on March 24 that a total of 3,952 people were tested for virus and 343 of them were positive, one day before the figure climbed to 343 cases in 5,035 tests.
‘This means that we come across more cases as the number of tests increases. This is why the head of the World Health Organization speaks of three demands: Tests, tests, tests,” he said.
Still, the TTB would not limit the fight against the viral outbreak to tests since no one could put the whole country through tests.
New data show that some 38 percent of the recovered patients in China were initially diagnosed via clinical or radiological findings, Adıyaman noted.
“But what we say is that every single suspected person should be tested,” he said, raising a criticism that this criteria agreed by the government’s science board is not followed.
The TTB demands more transparency on the issue.
“First of all, information should be given to the public openly so that the society will know what it faces. Secondly, not only the people who were tested “positive,” but all patients diagnosed with the disease should be isolated and all the people who contacted them should also be marked so that the spread of the outbreak will slow down,” said Adıyaman.
Transparency is important for health sector employees since they need to know whether the patients they contact with carry the virus or not, he said, asking for quick returns from the test center in Ankara, where all examples are sent.
“Doctors are the people in the frontline of this fight. If we cannot protect them, we will have to fight on under even harder conditions.”
Millions of masks in one depot seized
Commenting on the complaints over shortage of medical facemasks, medical gloves and scrubs, Adıyaman cited three reasons for raising the issue.
“There is a lack of material. But indeed, there are enough masks, gloves or other equipment in Turkey. There are three reasons for the problem. First, citizens rushed to buy gloves and masks when they heard about the outbreak regardless of a real necessity. When a real need emerged, there weren’t enough equipment for health workers. Secondly, some local producers cut sales to the domestic market to export goods for higher prices and they began to stockpile them. We told Mr. Minister Koca during a meeting to go after these companies, and we will keep saying so. The Interior Ministry intervened and we heard that millions of masks were held in a single depot. The seized masks are now being distributed to hospitals free of charge. A third reason for the shortage is that hospitals were caught on the wrong foot. Yes, now all hospitals are named pandemic hospital and we support such a decision but it was a late one. In short, we were caught unprepared.”
The TTB has long demanded that the sentences on violence against health staff should be aggravated and now hopes that the parliament can pass such a law when it meets for the coronavirus crisis.
“Violence against health employees hasn’t stopped even under this crisis conditions,” Adıyaman said, recalling a recent stabbing incident in the Black Sea province of Samsun.
‘This law is a vital need for us. The minister says he supports us as a doctor but maybe there are some hurdles that even he cannot overcome.”