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After 22 days of being operated by Belgian medical personnel, B-FAST's field hospital in Kirikhan was donated to Türkiye on 9 March. At its request, the Turkish Ministry of Health is now taking over the field hospital. In addition to the field hospital, Belgium also donates support items such as medical equipment, medication, the kitchen and an adjacent water treatment plant. This way, the field hospital can continue to be used by the Turkish authorities for as long as necessary to meet the needs of the Turkish people after the earthquake.
Since 2 March, a team of Turkish doctors, nurses, pharmacists and logistics staff joined the B-FAST team gradually to familiarise themselves with the field hospital. As for now, the entire Turkish team is now ready to be deployed at the field hospital in Kirikhan. That is why today, on 9 March, Belgium officially hands over the field hospital to the Turkish Ministry of Health, represented by Mr Arif Çetin. On the Belgian side, the handover is done by B-FAST team leader, Mr Gino Claes, in the presence of the Belgian Ambassador to Türkiye, Ambassador Paul Huynen.
The B-FAST field hospital in Kirikhan is located in Hatay province, an area severely affected by the 6 February earthquakes. Its location was decided upon in consultation with Turkish authorities. The field hospital was to be built next to Kirikhan's existing hospital, that could no longer receive patients due to the earthquakes. As such, the Belgian field hospital met local needs by offering services such as, among others, an emergency department, general consultations, a radiology department, a pharmacy and an operating theatre.
The residents of Kirikhan and surrounding areas clearly found their way to the Belgian field hospital. Between opening on 16 February and handing over to Turkish doctors on 9 March, the B-FAST team attended as many as 3503 patients. The hospital was open around the clock during those 22 days, helping an average of 159 patients a day. Almost a third of the patients visiting the field hospital were children. Not surprising as the hospital offered a dedicated mother-and-child ward. Eight children were also born in the field hospital, all of whom are in good health.
B-FAST’s presence in Türkiye started on 8 February: an assessment team went first to determine a suitable location for the field hospital, followed by a logistics team to build the field hospital and, finally, two rotations of medical personnel. In total, 207 B-FAST volunteers were deployed in Türkiye. Among those 77 for the logistics section, 119 with a medical profile and 11 for the management team. In addition, B-FAST could rely on 24 local interpreters - with the support of the Embassy of Belgium in Ankara and the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports - who were crucial for providing medical services in the field hospital.
Most of the B-FAST team will end their deployment on 10 March and consequently return to Belgium. However, a small logistics team will stay for a few more days to ensure a smooth transition and manage the repatriation of part of the equipment. Today the field hospital is handed over to the Turkish team, which will operate the hospital with the same capacity. A team of 50 Turkish doctors and nurses from the Health Ministry will be working there, in cooperation with a management team from the neighboring Kirikhan hospital. This way, the Turkish authorities can use the field hospital for as long as required to continue meeting medical needs after B-FAST has left.
The success of this B-FAST mission is the result of teamwork between the Belgian departments of Health, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence. B-FAST could also count on excellent cooperation with the Turkish authorities throughout its entire deployment. Belgium was one of four European countries to deploy an EMT-2 type field hospital in Türkiye, alongside France, Spain and Italy. A total amount of 8 million euros was provided for the entire operation. The field hospital was co-financed by the European Union.
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