President Erdoğan changes tune on doctors leaving Turkey, says country needs them

President Erdoğan has changed his narrative on doctors who have been leaving Turkey in large numbers, saying the country needs them. He has vowed improving pay and stricter laws punishing violence against medical staff.

Duvar English

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey owes doctors and needs them, in a shift in narrative following his remarks that drew ire last week when he said doctors who wanted to leave the country over poor working conditions and low pay “should just leave.”

“This country both owes and needs its doctors. The most select children of this nation are being raised in medical schools and training and research hospitals and are mostly in public service,” he said on March 14, marking Medical Day.

“Our issue is this: We want the world to send its patients to our country and should get treated here. Turkey’s potential is raising the doctor force that it needs as our country becomes a hot spot,” he added.

 “There may be people in the healthcare sector whose eyes and soul may be abroad instead of staying in their own country. I hope that those who move with this mindset will shift back their direction to their own country,” he said.

Erdoğan also said that a new set of measures was underway to improve conditions for healthcare workers.

One measure will include fighting violence against medical staff. Any violence inflicted upon a healthcare employee while working will be viewed in line with criminal laws and the perpetrator will receive a harsher penalty, he said.

He added that the employees’ pay will be improved and retired healthcare workers’ wages will also be increased. Family physicians will also get pay rises, he said.

Last week, Erdoğan drew reaction from the Turkish Medical Association and doctors after he said, “If they can leave, let them leave” about an exodus of doctors leaving Turkey over poor working conditions, long hours and low pay.