An opposition party lawmaker claimed patients in the intensive care unit of Iskenderun State Hospital in Hatay province died due to a power outage after major earthquakes hit southeastern Turkey in early February.
Speaking to the pro-opposition Halk TV, Turhan Çömez from the IYI (Good) Party said the hospital’s generators failed to work, leaving many critically ill patients without oxygen. “It’s scandalous, but the hospital wasn’t prepared for a power outage,” he said. “Ventilators didn’t work because there was no back-up plan, and the generators weren’t working.”
Çömez said the hospital administration was aware the building was not resistant to earthquakes. A report was issued to the hospital that confirmed it was not safe for use 10 years ago. Despite warnings from hospital staff, the Ministry of Health allowed the hospital to stay open.
“The hospital was badly damaged after the first earthquake [on February 6]; nevertheless, it was not evacuated,” he said. “My friends working at the hospital told me in tears that the hospital was not equipped for an emergency.”
Part of the hospital eventually collapsed after the earthquake, and Çömez said many patients and hospital staff died under the rubble. “How could the authorities have let this happen?” he said. “We will not forgive those officials who allowed for this hospital to stay open despite a report saying it was not safe.”
Iskenderun State Hospital opened 55 years ago. Many patients and employees died after part of the building housing the intensive care unit collapsed. It took eight hours for rescuers to even reach the rubble.
The provincial directorate of health issued a statement to the Turkish press saying the claims were false and that patients died after the buildings collapsed and not because of a power outage.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
At least 1.5 million people have been left homeless and 500,000 new homes need to be built after the devastating earthquakes and dozens of aftershocks in southern Turkey, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts.