As health care workers find themselves increasingly the target of violence, the Justice and Health Ministries of Turkey are working on new regulations to punish and deter perpetrators. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had recently met to tackle the issue plaguing everyone from doctors and nurses to paramedics. The ministries have been considering the implementation of more severe sentences for culprits.
The violence still persists, even at a time of COVID-19 pandemic where health care workers found renewed reverence for their sacrifices to serve the public. Last year, a new law increased prison terms for violence targeting health care workers. Yet, the cases did not end. A report by the Union of Health Care and Social Service Workers (Sağlık-Sen) shows they were subject to 190 cases of violence throughout 2021, involving 364 assailants and some 316 health care workers.
The ministries plan to present a draft bill on the issue to the parliament in the coming weeks. Under current laws, perpetrators of violence can be punished with up to three years in prison, but the sentence is viewed as lenient and can be further reduced to six months and commuted to fines, based on judgments of the court. The draft bill aims to ensure all convicts serve a minimum prison sentence without option of a fine. Crimes targeting health care workers will also be exempt from existing laws which allow courts to suspend the sentence if a convict is a first offender.