December 16, 2015

Reactions grow against YÖK’s decision to close private university hospitals

Reactions have continued to mount against a circular released by Turkey's Higher Education Board (YÖK) that ordered all private universities with hospitals to close their supplementary outpatient polyclinics that are not being used for student training by Dec. 6.

Last week, police raided the hospitals of the Şifa and Başkent universities in İzmir, which did not close by Dec. 6, and demanded they close their polyclinics within three days.

Turkish Doctors Union (TTB) President Bayazit İlhan spoke to Today's Zaman on Wednesday, saying the decision to close the polyclinics is a blow to healthcare in Turkey. “As is the situation with many industries [in Turkey], politically motivated steps have been taken in the health sector, but this directly affects the right to life. While it's wrong to close private university hospitals for political reasons, it's also wrong to punish our people by closing hospitals where they receive medical treatment. Our colleagues are under the threat of losing their jobs. It's a blow to the healthcare industry to put doctors who were educated in this country out of work, while the Ministry of Health announces now and again that it will import doctors in order to meet the country's needs,” Dr. İlhan said.

Tahsin Yeşildere, head of the University Instructors' Association, told Today's Zaman that the decision to shut down private university hospitals poses a danger to the health of society. “Doctors and healthcare services are much needed in the country today. Despite the health minister's recent announcement that we need 30,000 more doctors in our country, the decision to close these hospitals was made. A healthy environment can't be created for society unless the government stops oppressing various institutions from different industries as if they are enemies,” Yeşildere added.

The operation targeting the Şifa and Başkent university hospitals came less than a week before the second anniversary of the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption investigation that implicated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inner circle and former key Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures. It is seen as part of an ongoing, government-led witch hunt against business groups sympathetic to the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, whose philosophy is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government. Erdoğan has said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. He has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gülen movement by any means necessary. The movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2015, Wednesday