Press Release

Belgium accepts request to hand over B-FAST field hospital to Türkiye

From next Thursday, 9 March, Türkiye will take over the Belgian field hospital in Kirikhan. Since Türkiye now has sufficient Turkish doctors and nurses, Türkiye asked Belgium this week to take over the field hospital, which Belgium agreed to do. The transition will be gradual, as the Belgian field hospital will remain in operation for the next few months until the existing hospital in Kirikhan is fully operational again. Belgium is donating the field hospital and part of the medical equipment to Türkiye. Our country is also donating the water treatment plant installed next to the field hospital to ensure clean potable water.

On 6 February, Türkiye and Syria were hit by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people and injured tens of thousands. Hospitals in the region were overwhelmed by the many injured and local capacity was quickly reached. The population had no access to emergency medical care. Türkiye launched an international appeal for help, asking for specialised field hospitals in addition to search and rescue teams. And our country has just the expertise with B-FAST. B-FAST immediately decided, in consultation with the Turkish authorities, to set up such a field hospital in the affected area, more precisely in Kirikhan. It was agreed with Türkiye that the Belgian team would stay on site for several weeks depending on the needs.

On 8 February, just two days after the earthquake, a plane took off with a Belgian reconnaissance team. It was the first time our country had deployed such a field hospital, the size of a football field. In less than a week, it was built. Just ten days after the earthquake - on 16 February - the Belgian field hospital was already fully operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The B-FAST Emergency Medical Team ("EMT 2") includes Belgian doctors specialised in emergency surgery, emergency nurses and other specific medical profiles. Since 16 February, this medical team - which has a total of more than 70 people, including many volunteers from the Belgian health sector and defence medical staff - has been performing operations and providing vital medical assistance every day. The field hospital also has a specific 'mother and child' service. Belgian teams have delivered five babies, who are now in excellent health.

The Belgian field hospital has thus helped to relieve the burden on existing Turkish hospitals. It was planned to take care of a minimum of 100 patients per day - with a capacity of 20 patients for observation at night - but thanks to the enormous dedication and motivation of all the staff and an efficient division of tasks, the Emergency Medical Team has in recent weeks taken in far more than the planned 100 patients per day: 2,379 patients have been cared for so far (as of 2/03/2023).

As Türkiye now has enough national doctors and nurses, it asked Belgium this week to take over the field hospital. Our country agreed. The local hospital in Kirikhan is gradually starting to function again - the emergency department and laboratory, for example, have reopened, with other services such as dialysis to follow in the next few days - but the B-FAST team and the local hospital staff are finding that the local population prefers the field hospital to potentially unstable buildings. Therefore, Türkiye will continue to operate the Belgian field hospital in Kirikhan for the next few months. Once the Turkish hospital in Kirikhan is fully operational again and safely rebuilt, the activities can again move to the Turkish hospital.

Belgium (like Italy, for example) is donating the field hospital and part of the medical equipment to Türkiye. Our country is also donating the water treatment plant next to the field hospital. The transition will be gradual: since yesterday - Thursday 2 March - 4 Turkish doctors and nurses are already integrated into the Belgian teams, and from next Monday, 6 March, this number will be gradually increased. Logistical staff will also be trained to take over the management of the water treatment plants and the electrical installations. From Tuesday 7 March, the full integration of a Turkish medical and logistics team into the EMT 2 team will ideally follow, supervised by Belgian doctors and logistics staff. Next week, on 9 March, the transfer and departure of the B-FAST team will take place. Nevertheless, a small amount of Belgian logistical support will remain on site to follow up on the transition and to ensure that the repatriation of the remaining equipment goes smoothly.

The success of this Belgian mission is the result of teamwork between all departments involved (Public Health, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence), with the support of the EU, and more specifically the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). The clear choice that our country made to set up a field hospital with B-FAST within this European framework and to leave the "Search and Rescue" tasks to the other European Member States was the right choice. The operation is a perfect example of a successful and coordinated European approach. In total, 211 volunteers will have participated in this B-FAST mission. An amount of 8 million EUR was made available for the entire operation.