Military health system an absolute need
Complaints have started over the problems occurring in the practice of handing over military hospitals, including the Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA), to the Health Ministry.
One of the complaints is about the transport to civilian hospitals of soldiers wounded during clashes or terror attacks in the country’s southeast, as well as the slow procedure and delays in these transfers.
Similar to pilots resigning from the Air Force, the number of military doctors leaving is increasing. Before military hospitals were handed over to the Health Ministry, the number of academics who quit GATA because of the pressure of Gülenists and other reasons is close to 100. Since the failed coup attempt on July 15, the number of academics in GATA expelled because of alleged ties to Gülenists is 60; the number of specialists is around 40. Also, the number of military doctors who quit after the handover to the Health Ministry is around 40. In total, about 240 academic and specialists have left the system.
Complaints have reached top military officials. Health Minister Recep Akdağ, Defense Minister Fikri Işık and military officials are conducting talks to solve the issues.
Retired GATA Prof. Ali Şehirlioğlu spoke about the military health system, military practice and GATA. He argued that to avoid the collapse of the military health system, GATA and military hospitals should go back to the old system.
“GATA and military medicine is an absolute need for the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]. The formula for the Health Ministry to take over has started creating negative effects both in physical healthcare services and in the morale of soldiers. The solution is to grant GATA its previous status or at least for it to be a part of the medical school within the National Defense University to be formed. Otherwise, military medicine will be history.”
Every army in the world has a military health system, Şehirlioğlu said, adding, “Turkey is a huge country and a big army like the TSK has to have a military health system… The TSK is fighting terror domestically and abroad; it is at war, it has casualties. It sends troops to far away countries. This army has to have a military heath system. GATA is the spine of this system. All NATO countries have this system.”
A military doctor is at the same time a soldier, an officer, Şehirlioğlu said. “They receive military training as well as medical training. If there is a need, a military doctor takes a weapon and engages in clashes with their unit. Military [medical] practice is a different profession than civilian medical practice. Military doctors train within the military unit, at the front.”
Being an academic in GATA is a target for a military doctor, the professor said, adding that a doctor building a career in the military does not aim to be doctor in a civilian hospital. Also, civilian doctors would not be able to harmonize with military conditions, according to Şehirlioğlu. Being on duty for months, for instance visiting Japan, fighting with gulf pirates on a ship or serving in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia or Lebanon are a job for military doctors, he said.
War wounds and war surgery are different, requiring experience and expertise, Şehirlioğlu added. He also said, “Operating and treating bullet wounds, rocket wounds, shrapnel injuries, limb disruptions due to bombs, requires exceptional experience. If the soldier thinks that there is no such specialist and a military doctor supporting him, his morale will be down. This is a trust issue. The soldier has more trust in the military doctor he calls ‘commander.’”