Medical workers protest working conditions after tragic death of physician

The death in a traffic accident of a physician who was driving home after a 36-hour shift at work has sparked outrage among health professionals over their working conditions, Turkish Minute reported, citing local media reports on Monday.

Rümeysa Berin Şen, 25, died on Saturday morning when her car crashed into a truck parked on the side of the road as she was returning home after a long shift at Ankara City Hospital. She is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel due to exhaustion.

Health professionals said the poorly designed shift system was the cause of the young doctor’s death, which they said has resulted in burnout and distress among health workers, as they gathered for a ceremony on Monday in front of Ankara City Hospital in memory of Şen, supported by the Ankara Medical Chamber, the Turkish Medical Association and the Union of Health Workers.

During the commemoration, doctors said they are driven to exhaustion as they are forced to see at least 100 patients at a clinic after a 24-hour shift. “Do you want to be the 110th patient of an exhausted, overburdened physician?” they asked.

The physicians attending the ceremony later went to the Health Ministry headquarters and protested the ministry’s practices.

The TTB’s resident and young physicians branch on Sunday organized a well-attended online meeting during which they announced several commemorative events and protests at all hospitals.

“We will raise our voices against this system. If steps are not taken immediately to improve our working conditions, everyone can be assured that we will take action,” the branch said in a statement.

Dr. Şen was laid to rest on Sunday in her hometown of Zonguldak. Her father, Prof. Dr. Murat Şen, who serving a prison term on terrorism charges, attended the funeral accompanied by gendarmes.

Murat Şen was the dean of the law faculty at Melikşah University in Kayseri, which was closed down by a state of emergency decree-law in the wake of an attempted coup on July 15, 2016. He was arrested and jailed on February 8, 2018 as part of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) crackdown on the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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