Turkish healthcare workers stage nationwide protest against murder of cardiologist


Doctors and healthcare workers across Turkey took to the streets on Thursday as they began a two-day strike to protest the recent killing of a cardiologist in the central province of Konya, Turkish Minute reported.

On Wednesday, a relative of a patient shot and killed Ekrem Karakaya, a cardiologist at Konya City Hospital, and then committed suicide. Reports say the attacker, identified as Hacı Mehmet Akçay, held the doctor responsible for the death of his mother, who died of a heart attack a month earlier, according to reports.

Following the incident, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), one of Turkey’s leading health care unions, issued a written statement announcing a two-day nationwide strike, informing citizens that health services would be provided such as public holidays and urging them not to try to access health services except in an emergency.

In line with the statement, dozens of doctors and healthcare workers, including mostly TTB members, started a two-day strike in various provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara, Çanakkale, Eskişehir, Adıyaman, Bartın, Bursa and Bolu. from 9 a.m. Thursday.

Groups of doctors and healthcare workers observed a minute’s silence, followed by a 15-minute sit-in and a press release, to protest Karakaya’s murder, accusing the Party government of the Justice and Development (AKP) for not having taken the necessary measures to protect them against acts of violence and calling on the Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca to resign.

According to the Artı Gerçek news site, police intervened during a protest in Istanbul using pepper spray and forming barricades in an attempt to prevent protesters from marching towards the Istanbul Provincial Health Directorate in Fatih.

“Are you going to kill us too?” the demonstrators shouted at the police who were trying to disperse the demonstration, Artı Gerçek said.

Video released by local media also showed a large group of protesters booing Minister Koca in Kayseri, where he had gone to attend Karakaya’s funeral, with many people chanting slogans urging him to resign.

Wednesday’s attack came at a time when hundreds of doctors are leaving Turkey and going abroad due to frequent acts of violence and poor working conditions in the country. It is common in Turkey for patients or their relatives to attack doctors, demanding immediate treatment or holding them responsible for the death of a family member.

The medical community has called for more manageable workloads, increased security and increased salaries due to heavy workloads caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, increased cases of physical violence against healthcare workers and soaring inflation — recorded at two-decade highs, according to official figures — that are reducing doctors’ salaries to near minimum wage.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked anger and disappointment when he condemned, in a speech in early March, a growing number of Turkish doctors who are choosing to move into the private sector or go abroad for better job opportunities. , saying they are free to leave and that Turkey will find ways to make up for their loss.

After facing an angry backlash from the medical community, thousands of whom took to the streets on Medicine Day, celebrated every March 14 in Turkey, Erdoğan went on to hail the efforts of doctors , especially during the pandemic, and said: “Turkey always needs its doctors and is indebted to them.

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