Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 8 slammed the country's doctors for switching to the private sector or leaving the country for better opportunities. “Isn't it the state that educates doctors? I'm speaking frankly, if they're going, let them leave,” Erdoğan said, amid doctors' call for better pay and working conditions.
“We will employ our doctors who have just graduated from universities. If necessary, we'll quickly invite and employ those who want to return to our country from abroad. Don't worry,” Erdoğan said in a speech addressing women neighborhood heads ("muhtar").
The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) slammed Erdoğan's remarks, with TTB General Secretary Prof. Dr. Vedat Bulut saying: “In 2023, they will go, we will stay. Those having billions of dollars accuse doctors of being greedy for money.”
“These doctors have high intelligence. Their families cover their education expenses. A new physician receives a salary of 5,500 TL. In the past, it was [medical] students who used to stay in the same house. Now, it is three assistants who live in the same house,” Bulut said.
TTB Vice President Ali İhsan Ökten also slammed Erdoğan's remarks, saying: “What Erdoğan does not understand is that young doctors are leaving the country. It's too painful to simplify our problems to money."
Ökten stated that Erdoğan’s polarizing language was traumatizing and saddening doctors.
TTB also issued a formal statement with regards to Erdoğan's remarks.
“As the TTB, we exposed all the problems and loss of rights in our campaign. [Erdoğan’s] statement, which ignores our urgent demands for health and targets our demand for a humanely livable wage, is an effort to mislead the society and to cover up the crisis in health by showing the public as if the only demand of physicians is money,” the statement said.
TTB announced that doctors will go on strike on March 14 and 15 across Turkey.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also criticized Erdoğan's remarks.
“As the government mentality discredited science and merit, and made incompetent and insensitive appointments to the executive positions, violence against all health workers became widespread. During the AKP era, our physicians, and especially our young healthcare professionals, do not see the value they deserve," CHP Deputy Chairman Fethi Açıkel said.
"President Erdoğan's accusation against our doctors as if violence in health, loss of reputation and problems in working life do not exist, does not suit the seriousness of the state administration,” he said.
More than 13,000 health professionals lodged complaints that they had been subjected to violence at work in 2020 in Turkey, a previous report had said, citing data received from the TTB.
According to the opposition's statistics, the number of doctors leaving the country has increased 24 times in the last decade.
Overtime, long shift hours, low wages, lack of merit, cases of violence in healthcare, mobbing and harsh working conditions have led to the departure of many physicians in recent years.