Ankara healthcare workers to wear black ribbons to honour colleagues killed by COVID-19

The Ankara Chamber of Medicine (ATO) has called for a four-day protest of the death of healthcare professionals in Turkey due to COVID-19 by urging the wearing black ribbons.

The protest started on Monday, and will continue until Friday, according to a statement by ATO.

ATO members will put on black ribbons as they work this week, and on Thursday, all hospitals with ATO members will hold a minute’s silence at 12:30 local time to honour all the doctors, medical personnel and all victims of the pandemic.

As of Sept. 14, 92 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other hospital staff in Turkey have died after contracting the coronavirus at work. ATO’s updated list includes pharmacists, workplace doctors, as well as staff from public and private hospitals.

“Official figures have lost their credibility,” the ATO statement said.

According to the latest figures announced by the Health Ministry, a total of 7,186 people have died of COVID-19 in Turkey, with 26,174 active cases and the number of all-time infections pushing 300,000.

Turkey recorded 1,742 new diagnoses since Monday, while 1,327 people are “severely ill,” a field that replaced the daily announcement of number of ICU patients since July 28, when the county began registering 1,000 new daily cases following the lifting of pandemic restrictions on June 1.

Nine districts in the Turkish capital started to diagnose at least 500 cases every day, with one district, Keçiören, recording 906 positive tests on Sept. 7 alone, ATO Secretary General Muharrem Baytemur told BBC Turkish on Saturday,

The Ankara Chamber of Dentists Chairman, Serhat Özsoy, told BBC Turkish in the same interview that the ministry had announced 1,500 new cases nationwide on the day the two medical bodies saw 3,500 positive tests.

Some 30,000 healthcare professionals have contracted COVID-19 since March 11, when Turkey announced its first official case, ATO said. A total of 232 doctors, 118 nurses and midwives, and 99 janitors had tested positive by Saturday.

The Health Ministry has not been informing the public in a transparent manner, and pandemic management has not included most of the relevant parties, it statement added.

“We expect legal and administrative regulations be implemented without loss of rights, while maintaining the value of human labour and prioritizing human life in workplaces, transport, schools, and everywhere else where people gather en masse,” the ATO said.

The medical body also called for a pause in non-essential manufacturing plants, and increased focus on lower-income and working class sections of society.

The pandemic has become “a fight for life or death” for doctors and other medical staff, ATO said, calling for the COVID-19 deaths among medical professionals to be included in workplace deaths, bestowing families of the deceased with the relevant rights.

The government can’t manage the pandemic, and healthcare workers are at the brink of collapse, ATO said.

In a Sept. 9 statement, ATO had said the Health Ministry had expanded its drug regimen of favipiravir and hydroxychloroquine to persons who were not tested for COVID-19 and those who had a negative test result but had come into contact with a positive case.

“This is not a contact tracing practice, this is an inappropriate treatment employed on persons without a differential diagnosis, and a grave risk to public health,” the ATO said in the statement, warning of the drugs’ side effects.

In late August, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) headquarters and provincial chapters had issued a joint statement, saying, “Every day we hear of our colleagues contracting the disease, and while some speak of success stories on televisions and on Twitter, we are dying.”

September has seen a spike in medical personnel deaths due to COVID-19, with the number of medical professionals dying of the deadly virus-related complications almost doubling between Aug. 21 and Sept. 14, from 52 to 92.