The damage created by an earthquake can overwhelm local health services, and damage to clinics and hospitals can render them useless. After an earthquake, even undamaged medical facilities cannot be used for a period of time if there is a risk of aftershocks and collapse.
In such a situation, there may be calls for international health teams – but what constitutes the optimal medical aid a few days after the event? Does a military field hospital fill the “gap” in the local healthcare system?
On 12 November 1999, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Duzce, Turkey. All of the medical activities of the responding Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) mission team field hospital in Duzce, Turkey were recorded and evaluated. A total of 2,230 patient contacts occurred at the field hospital during the nine days it operated. Most of the patients who presented (90%) had non-traumatic medical, pediatric, or gynecological problems unrelated to the earthquake.
The IDF hospital offered medical care provided by specialists, hospitalization, and surgical abilities, which Duzce's hospitals could not offer until two weeks after the earthquake. These results strengthen the importance of a multidisciplinary, versatile, field hospital as an aid to an earthquake-affected population during the first few weeks after an earthquake.