December 13, 2015

Başkent University: YÖK’s decision to shut down private university hospitals victimizes patients

Başkent University, whose several outpatient polyclinics in İzmir were shut down last week over a circular released by Turkey's Higher Education Board (YÖK), lambasted the decision, saying in a statement, “Who is going to take responsibility for the victimized patients?”

In the circular, dated Nov. 20, YÖK ordered all private universities with hospitals in Turkey to close by Dec. 6 their supplementary outpatient polyclinics that are not being used for student training.

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

The police operation is seen a part of an ongoing, government-led witch hunt against business groups affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, whose philosophy is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Başkent University's Zübeyde Hanım Hospital said a written statement on Saturday many patients have been victimized by YÖK's decision, adding, “Those who closed the hospitals must take responsibility for the patients.”

The statement stresses that all services and facilities operate on a completely legal basis, saying, “We are going to file a complaint against this unfair decision.”

Şifa University Rector Mehmet Ateş posted on his Twitter account on Saturday that the university will continue to provide high-quality education to its students, and told the university's students and their parents not to worry. “Nobody should worry. Our university is an educational institution where students from Harvard University serve internships. My dear students, you will represent Şifa at academic summits without any problems,” he wrote.

The closure decision has also drawn sharp ire from civil society organizations. Önder Kahveci, president of the Turkish Healthcare Workers' Union (Türk Sağlık-Sen), told Today's Zaman: “Public services provided by private enterprises should not be shut down arbitrarily. You must have serious reasons to do this. The decision is also problematic when you think of the in-patients being treated at these hospitals.” Calling the decision prejudiced, Kahveci also claimed that closing down a private institution should only be a final step if the institution was found to be violating the law.

Highlighting that YÖK's circular implies all hospitals operated by private universities in Turkey will be closed, Cuma Kılıç, an adviser to the president of the Pak Health Workers Union (Pak Sağlık -İş) said, “The decision is not only about Şifa, Maltepe or Başkent.”

Recently, many business groups -- such as Koza İpek Holding and Kaynak Holding -- who have refused to go along with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), have been targeted or taken over by court-appointed trustees.

The operation on Şifa and Başkent University hospitals comes 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 AK Party figures.