Istanbul Medical Chamber has reported another incident of violence targeting healthcare staff. The chamber said on Sept. 25 that a healthcare worker who warned a patient’s relative to put his mask on was beaten in Istanbul University’s Çapa Medical School hospital.
“One of our health workers has been battered by a patient’s relative for warning him about wearing a mask in Istanbul Çapa Medical School hospital. The worker has been immediately taken under an operation to a problem in the eye,” the chamber said, calling on authorities to put the attacker in question to trial.
Prof. Dr. Tufan Tükek, dean of Istanbul University’s Çapa Medical Faculty, said on his social media account that the attacker has been detained. He said that the surgery of the health worker named Rıfat Babayiğit was completed, but a second surgery might be needed. Tükek also said that Babayiğit might suffer a permanent vision loss due to the attack.
Healthcare workers in Turkey often express their concern about violence targeting them, usually at the hands of patients’ relatives.
Earlier this week, a video footage of a group of emergency room employees at an Ankara hospital taking shelter at a room to protect themselves against a patient’s relatives has surfaced. The incident caused outrage among healthcare personnel, with Health Minister Fahrettin Koca referring to the attack as “worrying and concerning.”
The opposition has many times said that health workers in Turkey are already under increased strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the threat of violence is an additional factor they are forced to struggled with.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ankara Deputy Murat Emir said on Sept. 22 that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli’s targeting of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) is also sign that the government “has abandoned” healthcare workers.
“Not only are doctors abandoned, but they’re threatened by the government’s coalition ally. If you, at the highest ranks, threaten doctors, people will be encouraged and mirror that,” Emir said.
The deputy said that the government should “pull itself together” and display an attitude to elevate health workers to the level of respect they deserve.
Bahçeli, known for his bellicose rhetoric, lashed out at the TTB in a stream of tweets on Sept. 16, calling for its closure, accusing it of betrayal, and claiming it was as dangerous as the coronavirus itself.
In the face of Bahçeli’s call, several renowned people across Turkey, including members of the TTB, have slammed the MHP leader, throwing their support behind the organization.
Bahçeli is a staunch ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while the MHP is a coalition partner of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).