Mobile health clinics: delivering health to hard-hit communities in Turkey

With UK-Med’s second wave of medics now in Türkoğlu, Turkey, Doctor Richard Armitage, an NHS General Practitioner (GP) and UK-Med registered member has arrived to provide medical support to communities in need after the earthquakes in Turkey & Syria.

On arrival at the UK-Med base, Richard and the rest of the new team got straight to work, learning on the job. “The original team have done such incredible work getting the clinic up, running and functioning so well,” says Richard. “I worked alongside another UK-Med GP who has been here since the beginning, picking up the processes as quickly as possible. I also got to know the local translators – many are medical students or newly qualified doctors and they’re fantastic.”

Doctor Richard, who worked for UK-Med in Ukraine for eight weeks in 2022, is one of three GPs based at UK-Med’s field hospital in Türkoğlu. Richard explains what faced him on the drive from the airport, “The devastation is very clear to see. Many, many collapsed buildings, tented cities for those who have lost their homes, and those who have pitched a tent directly next to their own now inhabitable homes. The damage is vast.”

Left: GP, Richard Armitage, centre, who is one of the Emergency Medical Team providing support to those cut-off from health services. Right: One of our mobile health clinics. 

Helping those unable to see their doctor

Richard works in the GP section of the UK-Med field hospital, treating all ages from new-borns to elderly 90-year-olds. With the primary care system in Turkey so badly hurt by the earthquakes, Richard and the team are, in part, replacing that facility and doing background general practice work.

On treating the direct effects of the earthquake, Richard explains, “In general practice we’re seeing respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections that are an indirect result of what has happened. Living in tented communities is contributing to a spread of infection and viruses, but we have the means to diagnose and treat those things, which is really satisfying.”

Mobile clinics to reach the most remote communities

Whereas the UK-Med field hospital is a static structure, the mobile clinics are on wheels. It’s a vital service that is providing a lifeline to more remote communities that are unable to access medical aid in the field hospital. “The mobile clinic is a more condensed version of the hospital that physically goes out to the patients who can’t come to us,” says Richard.

A minibus is loaded with supplies, from medicines and dressings to folding treatment tables and sets out to remote villages identified as high need from the local authorities. They can be up to 50km away from the UK-Med field hospital base. “We generally have a GP, a nurse, obstetrician, a couple of translators and a driver. We’re welcomed by a local dignitary, we set up our outdoor clinic and then an alarm or announcement sounds so that people know we’ve arrived and can come out to see us.”

These communities are often in very remote locations and, over a month on from the earthquakes, have had little to no physical recovery operation reach them yet. Even seeing a friendly face in the UK-Med team is making a huge difference to their wellbeing. The UK-Med mobile clinic will head to new villages on a rolling basis, also circling back to those they have already seen as a follow up.


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