Turkey’s physicians go on strike to protest gov't policies

Turkey’s healthcare workers went on a two-day strike on March 14 due to low wages and poor working conditions. Ahead of the strike, several healthcare workers gathered on March 13 in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district, protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca’s attitude towards them.

Ferhat Yaşar / DUVAR

As per the call of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Turkey’s healthcare workers went on a two-day strike on March 14 on the Medicine Day in the face of low wages and poor working conditions. 

No service other than emergency health services will be provided in any health institution during the strike.

Healthcare workers on March 13 gathered to protest in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district as part of the strike, saying that they are not being paid sufficiently for their efforts and that they can no longer tolerate exhausting working conditions and violence.

TTB head Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı stated during the protest that they have been trying to make their voices heard for months through marches, forums and vigils. 

In remarks addressing Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, Fincancı said: “He sent us a letter for the Medicine Week. He said, ‘The language we develop about our rights and demands, the style of attitude should match the nature of the profession.’ In his own way, he told of how we should demand our rights. He implied that we neglect our patients, and he obviously did not like our style of making our voices heard.”

A joint statement was also read by the General Secretary of the Istanbul Medical Chamber Osman Küçükosmanoğlu during the protest.

“The logic of ‘have more patients, earn more money’ and the performance-based payment system have transformed the health system into commercial enterprises, and public health institutions cannot bear this burden. Although the appointment times are reduced to five minutes, citizens cannot find an appointment. Surgeries are delayed due to lack of supplies,” Küçükosmanoğlu said.

Küçükosmanoğlu also criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks on doctors, saying: “These words by President Erdoğan, who have been ruling this country for 20 years, and who must pay the price for this failure [of healthcare system], caused great resentment and anger among physicians. Our answer is clear. We have been here in this land since the history of medicine began to be written. We are here today too.” 

On March 8, Erdoğan slammed the country's doctors for switching to the private sector or leaving the country for better opportunities. “Isn't it the state that educates doctors? I'm speaking frankly, if they're going, let them leave,” Erdoğan said. 

Küçükosmanoğlu said that health workers will be on strike on March 14 and 15 "in all provinces and health institutions against those who try to tarnish our labor, profession and future.” “We will not stop demanding what is rightfully ours," he said. 

According to the TTB, 1,361 doctors left Turkey in the first 11 months of 2021, compared to 59 only in 2012. Long hours, low wages, violence toward healthcare staff, workplace bullying and poor working conditions have led many physicians to leave Turkey in recent years.

(English version by Alperen Şen)