Doctors protest reduction of medical examination duration in Turkey

Upon a call from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), doctors staged protests across the country against the reduction of the medical examination duration to 5 minutes. Doctors have slammed the fact that hospitals are being treated as businesses and patients as customers.

Duvar English 

Heeding a call from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), doctors staged protests across the country against the reduction of the examination time for patients to 5 minutes, the daily Birgün reported on Oct. 21. 

“This will lead to more doctors resigning or moving abroad as well as more health issues, diseases and violence within the healthcare sector,” the doctors said.

The doctors protested in front of two hospitals in Istanbul. Standing in front of the Taksim Training and Research Hospital, Istanbul Medical Chamber (İTO) Board Member Güray Kılıç said that the Health Transformation Programme, which has been implemented for years now, has turned hospitals into businesses and patients into customers.

Kılıç said that the examination time allocated to patients requires at least 20 minutes.

“With this new policy, over 100 appointments with different patients will be imposed on doctors. As the appointments are set by the Central Physician Appointment System (MHRS), without the doctor’s knowledge, this will prevent the doctor from allocating enough time for the patient, thereby undermining the overall quality of the healthcare provided to the public," he said. 

"Imposing more examinations upon doctors means interfering with their professional autonomy and threatening the public’s health, thus paving the way for violence in the healthcare sector,” he added.

Members of the Health and Social Service Workers’ Union (SES) also took part in the protest that was held in front of the Istanbul Training and Research Hospital. During the protest, İTO Board Member Dr. Murat Ekmez said that the “Health Ministry and hospital administrators should not forget that malpractice is a systematic problem and they are responsible for the negative effects that will reflect on the health of the patients which will be caused by this new policy.” Ekmez added that they would protest against the policy in front of hospitals every Wednesday until November.

In the southern city of Adana, doctors protested in front of Balcalı Hospital. Adana Medical Chamber President Dr. Selahattin Menteş also said patients could not be examined within 5 minutes.

“One cannot carry out an adequate examination within 5 minutes. Diagnosing diseases requires examining a patient’s detailed history. Doctors who will be forced to work without a medical secretary will have trouble keeping medical records and will struggle to establish proper diagnoses,” he said.

At a press conference held by the Ankara Medical Chamber (ATO), it was noted that 80 doctors from Turkey go abroad every month and that 8,500 doctors had left the public health service during the pandemic. ATO President Dr. Ali Karakoç said that Turkey’s public health service was on the brink of collapse.

“Let’s come together and oppose this policy for the sake of the doctors and society as a whole. Doctors are not slaves and patients are not customers,” he said.

During the protests, the doctors also called for an improvement of their working conditions and preventing violence in the health sector. They pledged to carry on with their protests and said they would launch a "White March" from Istanbul to Ankara on Nov. 23.

"We will be in Ankara on Nov. 27. If Health Minister Fahrettin Koca does not grant us an appointment, we’ll continue protesting.”