Turkish health workers demand better conditions in one-day strike

A full-scale nationwide strike on Wednesday saw hundreds of thousands of Turkish doctors, medical workers, healthcare workers and social support staff demanding better pay, reduced patient loads and increased safety measures.

The one-day strike was called by five Turkish health unions representing more than 250,000 employees. Adding to the earlier woes and difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers have recently been angered by a bill submitted to Parliament which sought to improve the financial conditions of health workers, but was suddenly withdrawn. .

During the strike, only emergency departments, COVID-19 departments and oncology clinics served patients.

A group of 500 healthcare workers gathered in Ankara, calling for the proposed bill to be ratified, including new incentives.

Hundreds of health workers, including doctors, nurses, medical staff and laboratory assistants, also gathered outside the Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine complex in Fatih district, demanding better conditions and protesting government policies.

Medical staff from Turkey’s 81 provinces have joined the strike, according to the sector’s main trade union, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB).

Some associations and medical personnel chose not to join the strike, citing the politically led position of the TTB but also highlighting the issues facing healthcare workers.

Turkey has recently recorded around 20,000 new COVID-19 cases and 180 deaths per day, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. He said on Saturday that six cases of the omicron variant had been detected in Turkey.

“We want to live and make others live”, “Free and equal health care for all” and “We can’t breathe” were some of the slogans chanted by protesters in Istanbul.

Health workers have complained of difficulty in making ends meet as inflation soars, with the Turkish lira losing half its value against the dollar this year.

“The Ministry of Health does not keep its promises. We demand a salary increase that at least corresponds to inflation. We demand that the coronavirus be recognized as an occupational disease,” said laboratory worker Aydın Erol during the demonstration. .

The TTB says health care workers are growing frustrated with the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the lack of transparency about data on COVID-19 infections and deaths, and health protection measures. personal health.

Many medical professionals have sought to leave the country due to low pay, long working hours and the risk of violence, he added. More than 100,000 doctors have been physically and verbally attacked in the past 11 years and at least 10 have been killed by patients, he added.

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