Currently many doctors employed at state and university hospitals work half-days at those institutions and half-days in private practice, which is more lucrative. A recent effort to mandate that doctors at state and university hospitals work a full day at those institutions has been met with resistance and appeals, and a recent ruling has only caused more confusion for failing to clarify whether it exempted all doctors at state institutions or merely those at university hospitals from a full workday requirement.
The Council of State argued that the ministry’s announcement was coercive in nature and contained a threat of imposing sanctions. In a 4-1 vote, the Council of State issued a stay on the ministry’s announcement.
The Constitutional Court’s July 17 annulment of some provisions in the Full Day Law had sparked controversy as the Health Ministry and the Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB) interpreted the decision differently. According to the Health Ministry, the Constitutional Court’s decision only exempts doctors at university hospitals from the Full Day Law. As a result, faculty members will be able to work both at university hospitals and their own practices. As for doctors working at state hospitals, they will have to choose between working at their own practice or working in a state hospital. Doctors working at state hospitals have until July 30 to make their decision. The TTB, however, argues that the Constitutional Court’s decision allows all doctors to work at their own practices. In the midst of this debate, the Health Ministry issued a press statement announcing the ministry’s decision that doctors in state hospitals would not be allowed to work at their own practices after July 30. Following the announcement, the TTB appealed to the Council of State. While the Constitutional Court’s pending opinion will clarify whether the ministry or the TTB is correct in their interpretation, the Council of State’s decision has complicated the issue.
The 5th Chamber of the Council of State has blocked the Health Ministry’s move, agreeing with the TTB’s interpretation of the other court’s decision and paving the way for all doctors employed at state institutions to work at their own practices. The Council of State issued its decision without waiting for the Constitutional Court to release its opinion. In its justification of its decision, the Council of State argued that the ministry’s procedure was unlawful and in violation of the Constitutional Court’s decision. The Council of State’s decision makes the most important article in the Full Day Law invalid. It gives all doctors the right to work both at hospitals and their own practices.
Health Minister Recep Akdağ called the Council of State’s decision regarding the Full Day Law a “legal anomaly” and said: “If this decision has really been made, it will be a legal anomaly. It will be taught as a legal mistake in law schools.”
Patients’ rights groups, lawyers criticize ruling
The Council of State’s decision on the Full Day Law has sparked controversy with lawyers criticizing the decision, sarcastically noting that one might as well let a government worker in the Council of State work for a private law firm after hours and a police officer work at a private security company as well.
Ali Ulusoy, a professor at Yaşar University’s law faculty, said the Constitutional Court has annulled the provision that prevents doctors from working after hours and thus the regulation does not apply to doctors working in state hospitals. Ulusoy said, “In the public sector working system, it’s challenging for a doctor to work at his own practice for four or five hours a day after an eight-hour shift and then have him return to work the next day. How can you as a patient trust that doctor? This will open the door to malpractice.”
Lawyer Zeki Sadunoğlu, from the Patient Rights Protection Association, said he could not make sense of the Council of State’s stay of execution on the Health Ministry’s press announcement. “This is a press announcement, not an administrative decision. There’s nothing that requires an action here,” he said. Noting that the Full Day Law has been met with approval by around 80 percent of doctors, Sadunoğlu said many people in Turkey pay TL 200 or TL 300 for medical exams at private doctors’ offices, not necessarily to get treatment but to get better service. Sadunoğlu said opposing the Full Day Law was equal to being against human rights.