ISTANBUL (Reuters) – In the intensive care unit of a hospital in Istanbul, the heart of Turkey’s coronavirus outbreak, doctors and nurses have rushed back to duty to fight against the pandemic days after recovering themselves from the disease.
Eighty-five healthcare workers at Medicana International Hospital, including 14 doctors, have been infected with the COVID-19 disease, Medical Director Cetin Koksal told Reuters.
But just over a month after Turkey logged its first coronavirus case, he said two-thirds of the staff including eight doctors have recovered and returned to work, where about 100 coronavirus patients are being treated.
In rare access to the ICU at this private hospital, staff who had just emerged from their own quarantines said they were proud of their tireless work despite fears for their families.
One of them is Nihal Yavuz, an infection control nurse who said in full protective gear that the team was working devotedly despite concerns.
“We are terrified of infecting our families. Some of us stay away from our families,” she said in the hospital’s intensive care ward, where seven patients are on mechanical ventilation.
“Some of us got it. Me too, I got coronavirus. We had to stay away from our families for 14 days. Then we came back to work after recovering. We are very proud of practising this job,” Yavuz said.
The number of coronavirus cases in Turkey has surged above 65,000 since the first case was reported on March 11. Authorities say 60% of those cases are in Istanbul, a city of 16 million people.
The government has halted all international flights, restricted domestic travel, closed schools, bars and cafes, and suspended mass prayers. It has also begun imposing weekend lockdowns in larger cities to curb the outbreak, but has stopped short of a nationwide stay-at-home order.
Medical personnel have been logging unprecedented hours at Medicana, where some 20 doctors are now working on what would normally be quiet weekends, Koksal said.
The doctors “returned to work as soon as they tested negative again, and started treating patients without rest,” he said. “They have become even more valuable for us.”
(Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)