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Turkish medical workers strike for better pay, safer work

March 14, 2022 GMT

ISTANBUL (AP) — Thousands of Turkish doctors and other medical workers began a two-day nationwide strike on Monday to demand better protection, improved work conditions and higher pay as Turkey suffers soaring inflation.

The Turkish Medical Association said that emergency and intensive care, along with COVID-19 treatments, would not be halted during the strike.

Hundreds of doctors have left their jobs in Turkey to seek opportunities abroad. In 2021, more than 1,000 doctors sought “good standing” documents from the Turkish Medical Association to be able to practice medicine outside Turkey.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said those doctors can “go ahead and leave.” On Monday, he softened his tone during an address for the country’s Medicine Day, which celebrates health care. He said believed the doctors who go abroad will return home soon because Turkey promised a “bright future.” He added “this country has a duty of loyalty and need for its doctors.”

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Violence against health care professionals have been on the rise in Turkey just as medical workers are dealing with burnout after living through two years of the pandemic. They are demanding a law to protect themselves. Protesters in Istanbul chanted Monday “We want to live!”

Erdogan announced that a legal amendment would be introduced to specifically include attacks against health care workers.

The Turkish president also promised pay increases and supplementary payments for medical workers. The latest official statistics showed inflation above 54%, which has significantly reduced the buying power of wages.

Health care workers went on strike in February and said they’d repeat it in March if their demands were not met. They are also demanding 20-minute examination slots rather than five minutes to better serve patients.