Thousands of people were on the street for a protest march against the health politics of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday in Kadıköy, a centrally located district on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. Health related organizations had called for a demonstration against the government's Health Transformation Program. Istanbul Medical Chamber Secretary General Hüseyin Demirdizen said in the meeting, "We want to cancel the Health Transformation Program; health service expenses including pharmaceuticals for all citizens should be covered by a general budget".
More than 5,000 people gathered for the protest in Kadıköy on Sunday afternoon (18 October), among them groups from health related organizations and left-wing parties and organizations.
"State accumulates savings out of people's pockets"
During the protest mach to the Kadıköy pier, workers from the health sector carried bills saying, "The health tale is over. We do will not give up our health, our work, our profession. 2 Lira for the family physician, 8 Lira for the state hospital, 15 for private hospitals. For now!" Slogans like "The health tale is over", "health transformation means destruction" and "free education, free health care" were continuously chanted by the crowd.
After the crowd had arrived at the meeting place, Demiydizen rose to speak on behalf of the planning committee and criticized AKP's health politics,
"The program is out, the intention is clear. The health care market should grow, the health care expenses should increase and the government's expenses should decline. The Social Security Institution should accumulate savings while the difference can be covered from people's pockets and from the workers labor; that way they can establish a monopoly. Examination fees, charges for pharmaceuticals, then inpatient treatment, surgery and just walking past the hospital will be charged".
"It is because of this politics that we have an increase of problems such as subcontracting, infant mortality and violence against hospital staff. The General Health Insurance (SGK) has been enforced 1 year ago and made health service more expensive and introduced charges. Poverty and unemployment has increased;
Bu politikalar nedeniyle hastanelerde taşeronlaştırma, bebek ölümleri, hastane çalışanlarına yönelik şiddet gibi sorunlar arttı" diyen Demizdizen, "bir yıldır yürürlükte olan Genel Sağlık Sigortası'nın sağlığı daha pahalı ve paralı hale getirdiğini" söyledi. "Yoksulluğun ve işsizliğin arttığını, çalışma hayatı ve sosyal güvenliğin taşeronlara ve özel kiralık işçi bürolarına okullarınsa özel okullara ve dershanelere teslim edildiğini" belirtti.
"The health of the individual and of the society is at risk if the application of equivalent pharmaceuticals, supplies and services are not covered. This leaves the people employed in the health sector in a difficult position". Demirdizen voiced the following claims:
- Withdrawal of the Public Hospital Associations and the "full day" package from the bill
- End of different applications in the health sector
- Priority to preventive health care
- Job security and pay raise for workers in the health sector
Workers from health sector will go to Parliament
Health Workers Union (SES) Chairman Bedriye Yorgun said, "We have experienced a transformation that serves multinational pharmaceutical monopolies in the health sector; job security does not exist anymore and the government's saving politics is bringing death".
Istanbul Chamber of Pharmacists President Semih Güngör argued: The latest regulations of the SGK changed pharmacists into cash collectors. The AKP government told fairy tales about the health sector. But now the tale is over. Now this dark picture emerges very clearly and it will destroy the AKP government and their spin doctors".
Revolutionary Health Workers' Trade Union President Arzu Çekezoğlu criticized, "If our fundamental rights do not fit into your laws, then you owe us to re-write those laws. Public employees will protest the neo liberal politics of IMF, World Bank and AKP in Ankara on 25 October, they will be in front of the Grand National Assembly on 7 November and they will be on strike on 25 November".
After further contributions of Istanbul Medical Chamber Chairman Özdemir Aktan, Istanbul Chamber of Dentists President Mustafa Düğencioğlu and Veterinarians Chamber President Tahsin Yeşildere the meeting finished with a performance of the Bandista group. The musicians entered the stage dressed in white aprons and carrying a placard saying "No to contribution fees".
The protest was also supported by the Istanbul Chamber of Physicians (ITO), İEO, Istanbul Chamber of Veterinary Medicine, Feminists from SES Istanbul Branches and Dev Sağlık-İş, Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK), United Metal-Work, Textile Union, Freedom and Solidarity Party, Labor Party, Patriotic Front Workers Union, Labor Movement Party, Halkevleri, the Socialist Platform of the Oppressed, Alınteri, Popular Front, Students Collectives and the Köz Magazine. (BÇ/VK)