Approximately 10,000 Turkish doctors have resigned or requested early retirement to seek better job opportunities abroad since July 2021, the Sözcü daily reported, citing statistics from the Health Statistics Yearbook.
Derya Uğur, chairman of the Union of Health and Social Services Workers, said the majority of doctors who have resigned or asked for early retirement are specialists in critical medical branches such as emergency medicine, neurosurgery, pediatrics and gynecology.
“If applications to move abroad continue to be filed, we estimate the number will reach 3,000 by the end of the year. If it goes on like this, the health system will struggle with staff shortages.” Uğur added, in reference to the large number of physicians who are intending to leave Turkey in search of better employment overseas.
According to the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), in the first seven months of 2022 a total of 1,402 doctors have applied for a certificate of good standing in advance of moving abroad.
Many blame the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and president and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the exodus of doctors.
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 24-year high, according to official figures -– that reduce doctors’ salaries close to the minimum wage.
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 the 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.