10.6 C
Frankfurt am Main

Erdoğan sparks outrage in medical community with remarks targeting doctors

Must read

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks condemning an increasing number of Turkish doctors who choose to move to the private sector or go abroad for better job opportunities have caused resentment and outrage among the country’s medical community.

“If they’re leaving, let them go. We’ll employ our newly graduated doctors here and move forward with them. If necessary, we’ll invite those back who want to return from abroad. Don’t worry, posts here won’t be vacant [for long],” Erdoğan said on Tuesday at a meeting with local government officials in Ankara.

Erdoğan’s remarks come amid protests calling for more manageable workloads, increased security and an increase in pay due to the mounting workload prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising cases of physical violence against healthcare employees and soaring inflation –- registered at a two-decade high, according to official figures -– that reduce doctors’ salaries close to the minimum wage.

Failing to mention the healthcare workers’ complaints about the dramatic increase in physical violence from their own patients and the mounting workload, Erdoğan on Tuesday focused on doctors’ demands on pay, which he dismissed as unwarranted.

The president said doctors working in public hospitals made a minimum of TL 8,000-9,000 (around $620) but still chose to leave for private hospitals or to work abroad. The monthly net minimum wage salary in Turkey is TL 4,250 ($292).

“He is sitting on billions of dollars and accusing doctors of being greedy. A physician just starting out receives a salary of TL 5,500 ($375). In the past students used to live in the same house. Now three interns are living in the same house [to get by]. … This hurts us,” Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Secretary-General Vedat Bulut told the Sözcü daily on Tuesday.

“In the president’s speech, we witnessed the pain of someone who is leaving. … In the 2023 elections, they’ll leave and we’ll stay,” Bulut added, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s electoral support that has been slipping below 24 percent, according to the latest surveys.

In the last general election held in June 2018, the AKP garnered a nationwide vote of 42.6 percent.

Following Erdoğan’s remarks, many doctors expressed resentment on social media, posting tweets with the hashtag #GidecekOlanHekimlerDeğil (It’s not the physicians who’ll leave.)

“Physicians in this country have been told they can leave if they want to. There was an effort to make it look like money was their only problem. Medicine has been further discredited. March 8, 2022 went down as a dark night in the history of Turkish medicine,” Dr. Göktuğ Karataş tweeted.

“Those who applauded us with prayers from the windows as we went running to the struggle, leaving our children behind without thinking, in those days when everyone closed their doors and hid, today applauded the remark ‘If they’re leaving, let them go.’ I felt ashamed and sad,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Özlem Bozkaya said, referring to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m not going anywhere. … But I’m very sorry. … Was it so hard to say ‘We’ll solve your problems’? That would’ve been easy to do if you wanted to,” Prof. Dr. Ahmet Berhan Yılmaz said in a tweet, addressing Erdoğan.

Another Turkish doctor using the name “Dr.Hüseyin” tweeted that if the president of a country drives people to hatred and enmity against doctors and says they should be allowed to go if they want to instead of trying to find a solution to their problems, one shouldn’t expect anything from that country.

While 1,405 doctors left their posts in Turkey to work abroad in 2021, 197 more emigrated in January alone, according to TTB figures. Local media reports say that thousands more are getting ready to leave as the Turkish government fails to meet their demands.

The doctors’ departures are a sad indictment of Erdoğan, who burnished his own reputation by expanding universal health care over his 19 years in power. It was one of his signature achievements.

But the strains of those overhauls wrought by Erdoğan, in addition to those brought by the pandemic and increasing inflation, have undermined the very professionals on whom the health system depends.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Ministry announced on Tuesday that physicians between the ages of 65 and 72 who had worked in the ministry or its affiliated institutions could be reassigned to their posts in the public sector.

The move has been described by many as an attempt by the government to make up for the increasing number of healthcare workers moving to the private sector or leaving the country for better working conditions.

Liked it? Take a second to support Turkish Minute on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
More News
Latest News