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Thousands left without doctors in Istanbul, says chamber

ISTANBUL-Daily News with wires | 1/12/2011 12:00:00 AM |

The Istanbul Medical Chamber says the new family doctor system should be canceled as poorer neighborhoods in the city severely lack doctors and offices. According to the chamber, the plan from the Istanbul Health Directorate, which closed some health centers in order to establish family doctor’s offices, cannot be efficiently regulated

The Istanbul Health Directorate’s new family doctor system is failing to meet the needs of the city’s poorer residents, the Istanbul Medical Chamber said during a protest Tuesday in the Sultangazi district, were 200,000 residents reportedly lack doctors.

“Dozens of family doctor clinics lack a building, and there are no nurses or midwives in some facilities,” said Fethi Bozçalı, a member of the Istanbul Medical Chamber. The health directorate is incapable of meeting the demands of 200,000 residents in the area who need at least 57 family doctors and proper health staff, he added.

The Health Ministry’s new system was intended to provide free health care for legal residents, but the ministry has reportedly failed to assign doctors to 150 locations in several poorer neighborhoods in Istanbul, leading the chamber to gather in protest at the new system in Sultangazi.

The Provincial Health Ministry Directorate had said 3,645 new clinics would open at the beginning of November 2010 to treat Istanbul’s 13 million residents as part of a strategy to replace the previous health clinic system with a local, non-emergency state healthcare option.

“The ministry’s slogan claimed, ‘One family doctor will be responsible for 3,500 people in Istanbul.’ This is a dream,” Bozçalı said.

A statement released by the association said plans made on paper that aimed to provide a chance for everyone to consult a doctor had ended up as nothing but demagogy.

“The Health Ministry previously announced that 940 family doctor offices would be established in Istanbul. In December, because many of these encountered difficulties, the directorate revised their statement and said the program would continue with 767 offices,” Bozcalı said.

He also said 220 of these 767 offices still did not have a building to host the patients. According to him, the lack of buildings proved the scope of the problem.

“Istanbul is suffering from a shortage of 750 family doctors while 2.5 million people suffer from a lack of treatment,” he said.

 “The 112 emergency services, mother and child care and family planning centers, tuberculosis control dispensaries and directory clinics were closed in order to establish the family doctor’s offices. The observation and treatment of 5,400 tuberculosis patients in Istanbul has been delayed. Because of this, we have concerns about the family doctor system. We request the public instead be able to take advantage of the pro-market system,” Bozcalı said.

Bozcalı also called for a raise in health personnel’s salaries, security and safe working conditions for employees at family doctor practices, as well as the prevention of wage cuts due to arbitrary regulations.

Hundreds of family doctor’s offices were opened in Istanbul in November while some former health clinics were converted into new family doctor’s offices; at the same time, 1,972 doctors were funneled into the system from other departments.

Daily Milliyet had previously reported that some family doctor offices were operating successfully, but dozens of frustrated patients have struggled to locate the doctors assigned to their neighborhoods.

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