Healthcare workers in Turkey’s public and private institutions will not be allowed to quit their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a circular distributed by Turkey’s Health Ministry to all 81 of the country’s provinces on Tuesday.
The ministry also suspended all annual leave as well as retirement for the medical staff during the COVID-19 outbreak, with the exception of those retiring due to disability or having reached the age for mandatory retirement.
The notice, which aims to stem the spread of COVID-19 during a peak in infections in the country, was issued on a day when Turkey reported 2,209 new cases and 76 coronavirus-related deaths. The latest figures bring the total infections to 366,208 and deaths to 9,950.
The Health Ministry had also imposed the same ban for a period of three months in March.
Announcing that 1,827 patients in Turkey were in critical condition. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Tuesday warned in a tweet that “we cannot be successful unless the number of patients in critical condition and active patients is brought down.”
The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) criticized the circular issued by the health ministry in a statement released on its official Twitter account on Tuesday.
“Preventing the resignation or retirement of healthcare workers is unacceptable at a time when COVID-19 is still not recognized as an occupational illness in the eighth month of the pandemic and the healthcare staff are not being tested [for COVID-19] on a regular basis,” the TTB said.
The TTB has been criticizing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for its handling of the pandemic, urging more transparency and coordination from Ankara.
Speaking to Halk TV, one of the few television stations in Turkey that is critical of the government, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the association’s chair, said the new circular demonstrated the extent of the pandemic in the country.
“Fighting the pandemic cannot take place through preventing the resignation or retirement of healthcare workers, but through wide-scale screening and preventative medicine,” she added.
Doctor arrested over alleged Gülen links amid pandemic
A public health specialist at Kocaeli University Hospital was arrested as part of an investigation launched by the Edirne Public Prosecutor’s Office earlier this week due to suspicion that he has links to the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government labels the faith-based movement inspired by Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen as a terrorist organization and accuses Gülen as well as members of his movement of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP has removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs and imprisoned some 80,000 people over links to the movement within the scope of a crackdown that followed the abortive putsch.
According to Bold Medya, Dr. Erkan Tufan’s arrest was based on the statement of a witness who claimed the doctor had stayed in a house that belongs to the movement back when he was a college student.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a rights advocate and deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), spoke out against the ruling AKP for arresting a doctor based only on suspicions during a pandemic.
“They have arrested Dr. Erkan Tufan. Congratulations on arresting a public health specialist who works at Kocaeli University Hospital and is giving 110 percent during the pandemic. And it is solely based on a witness statement. Which one is more dangerous, the pandemic or this sick mentality?” Gergerlioğlu tweeted on Monday.
“I don’t know whether to be sad about being alone only 20 days after getting married, or having to demand justice through social media in Turkey,” the doctor’s wife, Hümeyra Tufan, tweeted.
Over the weekend Minister Koca warned of a dangerous rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey, with the Anatolian heartland witnessing a second peak and the largest city of Istanbul having 40 percent of overall infections in the country.