Taner İşbir, a district mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Çorum, has called on the Turkish government to revoke the citizenship of doctors who choose to move abroad for better job opportunities, the Kronos news website reported on Monday.
İşbir’s call on social media came after remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeting doctors and healthcare workers.
İşbir had to delete his social media post following outrage from 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 March 8 at a meeting with local government officials in Ankara.
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 19 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.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Ministry announced the same day 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.