Turkish Medical Association protests against negligence of government

Following healthcare workers’ Turkey-wide 2-day strike on March 14 Doctor’s Day and yesterday (March 15), the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) has released a written statement about the strike action aimed at raising concerns and publicity about their demands.

The TTB has thanked the physicians and healthcare workers who joined the strike, saying, “We will win by struggling together”.

The TTB has said that healthcare workers “have once again laid claim to their labor, profession and future all together in the face of those who turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to them, who shut their ears to their voice and devalue them by saying, ‘They may go all they like’.”

Referring to their protests over the months such as the ‘White March’, ‘White Forum’ and ‘White Shifts’, the Association has recalled that with these protests, they wanted their urgent demands to be met and their voices to be heard. In reference to President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the TTB has said:

“The statements made by the President yesterday have shown that our demands are still being ignored. We want it to be known that as long as our labor and professional dignity is ignored, we will continue standing up against the mentality that devalues us with our all rightfulness and we will continue laying claim to our labor and future.”

Noting that “the broad participation in the strike has inspired hope”, the Association has expressed its determination “to obtain their rightful demands at the end of their organized struggle” and added:

“In the face of this healthcare system which breeds violence, these working conditions where we cannot get our labor’s worth and the mentalities that devalue us, we will keep on objecting and stepping up the struggle with our strength stemming from the values of the medical profession.”

About the health workers’ protests

The TTB and medical associations have been staging various “white protests” since 2021, demanding an improvement in their wages, working conditions and employee personal rights among others.

Within this context, as part of its protests with the motto “Our Labor, Our Word”, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) set off on its “White March” on November 23, 2021. The march began in İstanbul and physicians stopped by in the provinces of Kocaeli, Bursa and Eskişehir on their way; they arrived in Ankara on November 27 and held a “White Forum” there.

With the legislative proposal foreseeing improvements in the employee personal rights of physicians and dentists withdrawn at the General Assembly of the Parliament, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) also announced that a one-day strike would be staged on December 15.

With the strike in effect since the early morning hours, no healthcare services were offered in medical institutions, except for emergency services, dialysis, intensive care services and emergency services for children.

In late January 2022, the TTB, Turkish Dentists’ Association (TDB), Health and Social Service Laborers Union (SES), Progressive Health Workers Union (Dev Sağlık-İş), All Radiology Technicians Union (TÜM-RAD-DER) and Social Service Specialists Union (SHUDER) unveiled a new action plan to demand better wages and employee personal rights.

According to the statement of the organizations, healthcare workers would be on call on January 26 – February 4 and on strike on February 8.

Following this strike on February 8, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) held a press conference on February 22, announcing the further steps to be taken by healthcare workers as part of the “Our Labor, Our Word” action program. Accordingly, the TTB announced that healthcare workers would be on strike on March 14 (Doctor’s Day) and March 15, 2022.

In statements on February 24 and March 2, 2022, the TTB reiterated its demands ahead of the 2-day strike in mid-March.

On the first day of the strike on March 14 Doctor’s Day, the members of the İstanbul Medical Chamber, affiliated with the TTB, were not allowed to lay wreaths on Taksim Square to mark the Doctor’s Day.

In a statement a day later, the TTB denounced the police violence, which also caused 89-year-old retired physician Dr. Erdinç Köksal to fall to the ground, and said: “This intervention is against our profession”.