Turkish Medical Association condemns 'violence in health' bill proposed by government

After a strike by doctors this week against violence in healthcare, Turkey’s government put forth a bill allegedly meant to combat danger to doctors. The Turkish Medical Association says the bill is wildly insufficient.

TTB chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı holds a statement during a demonstration in this file photo.

Duvar English

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) has condemned a bill proposed by the government to protect medical workers against violence as “disappointing.” 

The bill was introduced as doctors in Turkey went on a two-day strike earlier this week to protest working conditions in the country. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, light has been shed on the often-dire conditions and salaries facing Turkish doctors. Thousands have left for abroad, some even leaving the medical profession altogether to escape the country. 

Turkish doctors, in particular, face violence in the workplace. Often, patients’ families can threaten - or use - violence when the results of treatment are adverse.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government have previously dismissed these accusations and have said those doctors who don’t want to stay in Turkey “should just leave.” However, on March 14, Medical Day, he praised the country’s doctors.

“This country both owes and needs its doctors. The most select children of this nation are being raised in medical schools and training and research hospitals and are mostly in public service,” Erdoğan said. He also highlighted Turkey’s increasingly significant role as a destination for medical tourism.

The new “violence in health” proposal was released following Erdoğan’s speech. It aims to impose heavy penalties on those who abuse medical professionals, but doctors say it falls short. 

“Unfortunately, it does not meet our expectations in terms of neither health violence nor malpractice, and it has already caused disappointment,” TTB said in a statement on March 17.

The Association said the government should fully implement its recommendations in order to combat violence effectively. The root causes of violence in medical settings need to be investigated so that it can be addressed, and working conditions need to be improved as a whole.

"Arrangements made without analyzing the causes of violence in health, which have increased significantly with the bottleneck in the health system and the deepening economic crisis, will not offer us any solution,” TTB said.

Further, the association said that the proposed bill could actually create new problems. A Professional Responsibility Board would be established within the Ministry of Health which would oversee all healthcare workers. TTB says given the current state of the government and its one-man structure, this could create issues for those in the medical field.

“They are trying to restrict the professional autonomy of the physician and health administrators will expect health professionals to 'do what they are told,’” they said. They also say the composition of the board does not include sufficient representation from the medical field.

TTB demands that the government introduce a bill that includes their suggestions for how to keep doctors safe.

“Looking at this, it is obvious that this regulation was not crafted with a holistic legal evaluation and approach,” TTB said.