Dr. Osman Sağlam, President of Mardin Medical Chamber was summoned by the police to give statement regarding his interviews on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on public health and the province for which he is responsible. The accusation brought against him is “causing fear and panic among the public”.
Osman Sağlam is the Co-chair of Mardin Medical Chamber, an internal medicine specialist, and an emergency physician. On March 28, 2020, he was summoned to give his statement at Mardin Provincial Police Department regarding the interviews he gave to Mezopotamya Ajansı and Gazete Duvar. Osman Sağlam criticized the inadequate level of precautions taken to manage the epidemic and the reluctance of Mardin Provincial Directorate of Health to share information regarding the epidemic. It was later revealed that the Provincial Directorate of Health had filed the complaint against him.
Osman Sağlam has been active in Mardin Medical Chamber since 2016. He is also a member of the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services (SES) Mardin Office. He was taken under custody on October 8, 2014, while trying to help those arrested during a Kobane support march. He was later released. On February 6, 2015, he was attacked by relatives of a patient at the primary care center in Ortaköy neighborhood of Artuklu district in the province of Mardin. He was among the group that publicly announced the inefficacy of the “Law on Violence Against Health [Professionals]” on November 2, 2018. Osman Sağlam represented Mardin Medical Chamber in a joint press statement issued on the “Law on Violence Against Health Professionals” by Mardin Medical Chamber, Mardin Dental Chamber and KESK Mardin Offices Platform.
On March 18, 2020, Sağlam issued his personal statement titled “Hekimler virüs teşhisi koymaya çekiniyor”(Physicians are reluctant to diagnose a case with the virus”), where he said “A physician who diagnosed a case with coronavirus was forced to take a leave of absence. The physicians are reluctant to diagnose [these cases]”. Sağlam also spoke to Gazete Duvar on March 25, 2020. In this article, he informed that 50 people were under quarantine in Mardin. He underlined “We don’t need the applause but the protective gear. We requested a meeting with the Director of Provincial Health Department. We called him on his personal phone for two days, sent him messages but to no avail. As a consequence, we have not been able to share information or take joint action.” Sağlam was summoned to Mardin Police Department to give a statement on March 28, 2020.
On March 30, 2020, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council requested, in writing, that Medical Chamber representatives would be included in the Covid-19 Pandemic Provincial Coordination Committees and Provincial Public Health Councils.
TTB is one of the largest civil society organizations and the only health association with experience in crisis response in Turkey. TTB is deliberately left out of the crisis response mechanism by the government, further exposing government’s interest in collaborating only with the pro-government organizations and serving the similar section of the public, and interpreted as an attempt by the government to silence those critical of government’s management of the crisis.