Turkey’s draft health law draws international criticism
ISTANBUL – HürriyetThe government’s draft law on health services has prompted reactions from international health organizations, which criticize the law’s potential “prevention of urgent health services provided by qualified independent people in times of demonstrations.”
An Omnibus Draft Bill on the Health Law aims to collect all health services under the control of the Health Ministry and prevent unlicensed services. Article 33 of the draft law stipulates a one to three year jail sentence and a fine of up to 2 million Turkish Liras for doctors who continue to provide unlicensed health care after emergency health services arrive at the scene.
International organizations sent a joint letter to Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek on Nov. 19 over the obstacles that could result from the draft.
“If the article  becomes law, independent and credible doctors will face prosecution when providing first aid during demonstrations when the Health Ministry’s ambulances are also on the scene,” the letter, penned by organizations including the World Medical Association, Physicians for Human Rights, the British Medical Association, the German Medical Association, and members of the Standing Committee of European Doctors.
“This regulation will make it a crime for qualified health workers to conduct their job independently in Turkey and grant unprecedented control to the Health Ministry. In times of urgency, the international standards over medical care are based on medical need rather than the accessibility of medical care,” the letter added.
“The presence of an official ambulance on the scene prevents independent doctors from providing medical aid during demonstrations, according to the article,” it also said.
Bayazıt İlhan, the secretary general of the Turkish Doctors’ Union, claimed that the draft law targeted doctors who worked voluntarily during the Gezi Park demonstrations.
Many temporary voluntary health units were established during the months-long protests that spread across the country after starting in May against a construction project in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Many doctors and medical school students provided first aid to demonstrators wounded due to tear gas, water cannons and tear gas canisters used by riot police. A mosque in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district turned into a medical center on one night of a fierce police intervention into demonstrations.