In May, a state-run news outlet in Iran did a major article on the “suicide of young medical interns”, following the deaths from the suicide of three interns in just 10 days, which is the direct consequence of the pressure put on them by the authorities’ failure to control the pandemic, hire an adequate number of medical staff, or pay them enough to live on.
These medical assistants work in hospitals under the supervision of medical universities, with the following problems:
- salaries below the minimum requirement
- long consecutive shifts
- no insurance
- inability to see friends and family
- unfair 89-day contracts
- work pressure
- staff shortages
- mental and physical problems due to the coronavirus pandemic and patient deaths
It is unclear what the demographics are of those who have died from suicide because their identities are being protected (or hidden). Hossein Kermanpour, the public relations director of the Medical System Organization, said that an investigation is underway and that information was not yet available.
Psychologist Ali Nikjoo said: “The serial suicide of interns is a painful tragedy. Iranian talent has either left the country, become passive in a corner, endure the hardships of life, or end their lives in such a tragic way.”
While the Secretary-General of the House of Nurses, Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam, spoke about how young hospital interns are being exploited by employment laws and that they don’t have “advocates who could protect their rights” so “they are being discriminated against”.
He said: “To complete their training, they have to spend a lot of time reading and watching training videos on the Internet and even perform surgeries this way. This increases their stress. High pressure to complete training and, of course, very low salaries (approx. $475 to 575) cause a lot of psychological damage for interns.”
The country’s medical student union councils wrote a joint letter to the Minister of Health following reports that four medical interns had died from suicide in Tehran in the first half of May alone. They demanded an investigation into the deaths, as they spoke about how “exploitative laws and coercive instructions” have led to this place.
They wrote: “Interns with reduced rights and long shifts, with a salary of two million Tomans a month, are on duty for dozens of nights.”
This situation is not unique to medical interns, as all workers are exploited under the rulling theocracy, but the interns’ issues are exacerbated by the pandemic.