Turkish parliamentary commission accepts legal measure targeting purged doctors

A Turkish parliamentary commission accepted a legal amendment that could leave thousands of doctors unable to work on Tuesday, despite widespread protest from medical workers and opposition politicians.

The Turkish parliamentary commission for health met on Tuesday to discuss the amendment, which would make it nearly impossible for doctors who had been dismissed from their jobs by presidential decree to regain employment in the sector, Turkish secularist daily BirGün reported. The commission accepted the proposed changes on the same day.

The amendment is part of a larger health reform bill that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government says will tackle problems facing the country’s healthcare professions, particularly violence against doctors.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB), however, says the bill has not gone far enough to stop the violence, and has launched a month-long protest against other measures that it says will harm doctors’ welfare.

Foremost among these is a section that will prevent doctors, dentists and other medical workers sacked for alleged links to terrorist organisations from working in the vast majority of Turkish healthcare facilities.

This could affect between 5,000 and 6,000 doctors, the TTB has estimated. Many of these were likely dismissed by decree in a crackdown after the July 2016 coup attempt, in which workers with suspected links to the outlawed Gülen religious movement were sacked.

However, the TTB also provoked the government’s wrath last January, when it released a statement protesting a Turkish military operation launched against Kurdish militias in northwest Syria. The association’s president and central committee were arrested by anti-terror police soon after the statement was released.

Discussing the new amendment, pro-minority Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Semra Güzel said doctors had been dismissed by decree in a process that lacked transparency and deprived them of the chance to defend themselves.

The amendment would harm doctors who had not been granted their due legal process, said Ünal Demirtaş, a deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The TTB has called for a month of protest at the bill, which is likely to cut the group's funding by removing a requirement for hospitals to apply for membership to the association.