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Turkish doctors say hospital violence out of control

Turkey's health care workers have long asked for government action to curb the verbal and physical assaults they too often face at work, but the government’s latest bill does little to help them.

In the pediatrics department of Harran University Hospital, a patient’s father was not satisfied with the answer the doctor provided about his son’s fever. He struck the doctor’s head twice with a stone. The doctor collapsed and was taken to intensive care. This happened in mid-July in the southeastern town of Sanliurfa in Turkey. The assailant told police he does not regret what he did. This is only one of 68,375 cases of verbal and physical abuse of medical personnel in the last six years. According to data from the Turkish Health Ministry, every hour a health staff member is attacked. Verbal abuse is about three times more common than physical.

From early October through the end of November, Al-Monitor conducted phone interviews with over 100 health care employees from three cities (Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara) in Turkey. All medical staff (doctors, dentists, hospital administrators, nurses, pharmacists and interns) told Al-Monitor they believe the actual numbers are much higher than those reported. All of those interviewed have experienced verbal abuse, and 65% of them said the verbal abuse (insults, threats, offensive language) happens on a daily basis. They all concurred that since the 2016 coup attempt, incidents of handguns being brandished at emergency rooms and surgeries have increased. The problem is not a recent one in Turkey, but it has been gradually becoming worse. From 2012 to 2017, violence toward medical staff has increased 168%.

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