Health professionals interviewed by daily Cumhuriyet say that the real reason that patients are unable to book appointments for examination in Turkey is that physicians and doctors are leaving hospitals in droves amidst dire work conditions.
Last month, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca admitted that many patients in Turkey were having trouble getting appointments in public hospitals. He did not, however, suggest a solution to this issue. Dr. Güray Kılıç and Dr. Ergün Demir told Cumhuriyet that it was up to the Health Ministry to “produce solutions.”
“The Health Minister knows very well that the most important reason why citizens cannot get an appointment for examination through the Health Ministry system is due to the number of physicians that have resigned due to the struggling health system and the devaluation of physician labor. Nearly 10,000 people have resigned or retired from the public sector,” they said.
This physician shortage arose, they said, at the beginning of the pandemic. At that point, nearly all public hospitals were declared “pandemic hospitals” and non-essential treatment was postponed. However, no contingency plan was made for how citizens - especially those in high-risk groups - could access medical care. In this environment, cancer patients, pregnant women, elderly patients, those with chronic diseases, and those who needed surgery turned to private health institutions.
Physicians left public hospitals, too. Some went to European countries, such as Germany, while others moved into the private system. In public hospitals, physicians' work was devalued, they were forced to work in poor working conditions, and examinations were sometimes limited to five minutes. In Europe and in the private health sector, they were better compensated and better treated.
As a result, public hospitals are now severely lacking qualified doctors. However, without real, structural change, this is a problem that will continue, or even worsen, the doctors said.
“The minister complicates the problem rather than trying to solve it,” the doctors said.