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More doctors getting ready to leave Turkey as their demands go unmet

Health workers and doctors wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) hold placards reading "You cannot manage, we are dying - We are running out" during a demostration against goverments health policy on September 15, 2020 in front of Istanbul University medical faculty. Ozan KOSE / AFP

A total of 567 doctors applied to the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) in the first three months of 2022 for a certificate of good standing in advance of moving abroad, according to an opposition deputy, as their demands of the government for manageable workloads and increased security and pay continue to go unmet.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Murat Emir on Thursday tweeted the number of the doctors who intended to leave Turkey in the first three months of 2022, blaming the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the exodus of doctors.

“The architect of this scenario is the government, which turns a blind eye to the demands of healthcare workers. Is Erdoğan, who says about doctors, ‘Let them go,’ happy about this picture?” Emir tweeted.

Erdoğan in a speech in early March condemned an increasing number of Turkish doctors who are choosing to move to the private sector or go abroad for better job opportunities, saying they are free to go and that Turkey will find ways to make up for their loss.

After facing an angry reaction from the medical community, thousands of whose members took to the streets on the occasion of Medicine Day, marked every March 14 in Turkey, Erdoğan later praised the efforts of doctors, especially during the pandemic, and said, “Turkey is always in need of its doctors and is indebted to them.”

Erdoğan’s remarks came amid protests calling for more manageable workloads, increased security and an increase in pay due to the heavy workload caused 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.

While 1,405 doctors left their jobs 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 20 years in power. 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.

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