The hospital system and whether there are any restrictions on the wearing of head scarves by health care professionals [TUR39835.E]

The Hospital System

The hospital system is under the "overall control" of the Ministry of Health (Trade Partners UK n.d.). Hospitals are owned by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Social Security Insurance Organisation (SSK), the Ministry of Defence, state economic enterprises, universities and the private sector (ibid.; Turkish Odyssey 23 Jan. 1998; Turkey 1997). In addition, there are several international hospitals in Turkey ( n.d.).

According to Trade Partners UK, "MOH hospitals account for over 60% of hospitals in Turkey and for about half of the hospital beds in the country" (n.d.). An article posted on the Web site of the Directorate General of Press and Information of the Office of the Prime Minister of Turkey corroborates this information by quoting the Health Minister, who stated that "'[a]s of January 1997, 712 hospitals out of a total of 1073 hospitals in Turkey are run by the Health Ministry, [while] 115 hospitals belong to the Social Security Institution (SSK)'" (Turkey 1997). (The SSK provides insurance and health care for blue and white-collar workers and their family members, in practice covering approximately half of the country's population (Trade Partners UK n.d.).) The Health Minister also reportedly stated that "'since these institutions have structures independent of each other, it is difficult to ensure productive coordination and services'" (Turkey 1997).

The number of private hospitals in the country, however, has been on the rise (Trade Partners UK n.d.). Between 1993 and 1998, private hospitals increased from 120 to 185, 80 of which are in Istanbul (ibid.). But, according to an opinion piece in the Turkish Daily News, "the Ministry of Health does not like private hospitals since it has very little control over them. It is also true that the ministry has been less focused on the appropriateness of the facility or the quality of service provided, than on how much the hospitals in question follow the ministry's policies" (7 Oct. 2000).

Health Marketing Quarterly reported that, because "recent changes in governmental policy have led to increased competition among hospitals in both the public and private sector, ... all institutions are being watched and remain open to government scrutiny and regulation" (2000).

Health care provided by the Acibadem Health Group, a private health institute in Turkey, reportedly provides medical services that are amongst the highest in quality, technology and reputation (Turkish Daily News 7 Oct. 2000; ibid. 8 Oct. 2001). The group is comprised of "1,415 medical staff, 345 doctors, two hospitals and three polyclinics" (ibid.).

Wearing of Headscarves in Hospitals

In Turkey, wearing of the traditional Islamic headscarf is banned in state-run hospitals (The New York Times 17 Mar. 1998; Islam21 n.d.).

In February 2001, the Istanbul governor's office dismissed 26 doctors and assistant medical personnel from the Haseki Hospital for violating the dress code (Anatolia 3 Feb. 2001). The dismissal came after the office had received reports that the civil servants were wearing headscarves while on duty at the hospital (ibid.).

According to the Annual Report on International Religious Freedoms for 2002,

The Government [of Turkey] continued to enforce a long-term ban on the wearing of religious head coverings at universities or by civil servants in public buildings. Women who wear head coverings, and both men and women who actively show support for those who defy the ban, have been disciplined or lost their jobs in the public sector as nurses and teachers (7 Oct. 2002).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Anatolia [Ankara, in Turkish]. 3 February 2001. "Turkey: 26 Hospital Staff in Istanbul Sacked for Wearing Head-Dress." (BBC Worldwide Monitoring 5 Feb. 2001/NEXIS)

Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2002. 7 October 2002. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002] n.d. "Hospitals in Turkey." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Health Marketing Quarterly. 2000. Vol. 17, No. 4. "Health Services Pricing in Turkey." (NEXIS)

Islam21. n.d. "Women Issues: Politicising Hijab and the Denial of a Basic Right." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

The New York Times. 17 March 1998. Stephen Kinzer. "Istanbul Journal: A Woman, Her Scarf and a Storm Over Secularism." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Trade Partners UK. n.d. "Healthcare & Medical Market in Turkey." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Turkey. Office of the Prime Minister, Directorate General of Press and Information. 1997. Zeynep Ozeri. "Third Health Project 'On the Way.'" [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Turkish Daily News [Ankara, in English]. 8 October 2001. Guzin Yildizcan. "Acibadem Hospitals to Embark on Medical Research." (NEXIS)

_____. 7 October 2000. Oguz Engiz. "Turkish Excellence Centers in Health Care: The Bottom Line in Health Care is That You Ought to Give Your All to This Business, Get Up and Go to Sleep With It and Grow It With Your Very Hands." (NEXIS)

Turkish Odyssey. 23 January 1998 "Part 4: Health Services." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Health (in Turkish)

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