The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on April 7 voted down a motion calling for the parliament to discuss a law seeking to protect medical staff against perpetrators of violence.
The motion was submitted by Ali Şeker, a deputy of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who is himself a doctor.
Şeker initially addressed the parliament in the traditional doctor's white coat, but upon the deputy parliament speaker's warning, he took it off. “Although I am taking this coat off, I will still speak with my doctor identity, not with my deputy identify. Until a law to address violence in health sector is enacted, let this coat remain on this microphone,” he said.
Turkey's health care workers have long asked the government to curb the verbal and physical assaults they face at work by bringing a law imposing harsher penalties on those inflicting violence on doctors and nurses.
The AKP submitted a bill regarding the issue in October of 2018 to the parliament and the bill is still waiting, for the last 1.5 years, to be cleared by the parliamentary commission for health.
Şeker said that in the last 1.5 years, around 20,000 health workers have been exposed to violence, whereas this figure went up as high as 90,000 for the last seven years. He said that nine doctors were killed on duty between 2005-2019.
“Health workers need more motivation than ever in the upcoming days [amid coronavirus outbreak] and due to the intensity of hospitals, they might be exposed to violence more than before. So, let us do our duty and let's bring this bill into the agenda [of the parliament], enact it as a law and provide a moral support for our medical staff, who are struggling for the public. This is our responsibility amid this coronavirus outbreak period,” he said, while addressing the lawmakers in the parliament.
Prior to the voting, the CHP group deputy chairperson Özgür Özel said that the law will make medical staff “to feel safer” while doing their jobs. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) group deputy chairperson Meral Danış Beştaş said that the HDP was ready to throw their support behind the law.
AKP deputy chairperson Özlem Zengin also took the floor, saying that although the party does not in anyway approve of violence cases targeting medical staff, the AKP has already a “preparation going on” regarding this issue.
Özel said that he saw the AKP's draft bill, but its measures fall short of those proposed by the CHP as well as the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and therefore suggested that all of the proposals are discussed in a broader framework.
Following the speeches, the motion was rejected the AKP-MHP bloc, which holds the majority in the parliament.
Afterwards, Şeker posted a short clip of the voting process undertaken at the parliament on his Twitter account.