Serkan Alan / DUVAR

The”Big White Meeting” that Turkey’s healthcare workers’ unions were planning to hold in Ankara to protest widespread violence against healthcare workers in the country was cancelled due to the first official case of coronavirus being detected in Turkey March 10, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) said March 11.

“As Turkey’s healthcare workers, we are acting with a sense of responsibility to focus all of our attention on solving the health complications that coronavirus will trigger,” said the official TTB statement.

The TTB also said that the spread of coronavirus in Turkey didn’t necessitate such a prevention, but that the workers wanted to be safe considering they make “about 350 million examinations and five million surgeries a year in thousands of offices, 1,500 hospitals, 27,000 pharmacies and 7,500 clinics around Turkey, deliver two billion boxes of medication to patients and care for millions.”

TTB representatives will meet with Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca March 12, Chair Sinan Adıyaman said, adding that the association will hold a press conference afterwards.

The protest was aimed at condemning the widespread use of violence against healthcare officials in Turkey that has systematically been left unpunished.

“We want to provide healthcare services in a healthy environment without violence, where our labor is put to good use and appreciated. END violence in healthcare!” was the official statement for the protest.

A failed promise of transparency

Turkey’s Health Ministry has failed to fulfill the promise of transparency it’s been giving since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, said Prof. Özlem Azap from the Turkish Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (KLİMİK).

“The Health Ministry made us hopeful about leading the process in a transparent manner. They didn’t even say which city the case was in yesterday.” Azap said. He added that, on the other hand, “we can track the spread in China region by region.”

Noting that it’s nearly impossible that no other cases have been detected in Turkey, Azap said there was no need to panic but that everyone should comply with preventative measures.

‘Protection of healthcare workers must take precedence’

The TTB noted that the physical and mental protection of healthcare workers are of essential importance in outbreaks like the coronavirus.

“Distribution of personal protective gear to hospital and clinic employees is a priority and there should be no depression of trust in this area,” said the TTB.

All health authorities should adhere to international standards of protection and ethics and avoid discriminatory practices in both quarantines and treatment, the TTB added.