Statistics from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) show that a record number of 144 physicians have applied for a certificate of good standing in advance of moving abroad over the past two weeks, the Sözcü daily reported.
Doctors in Turkey increasingly continue to leave the country as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government fails to meet their demands for manageable workloads and increased security and pay.
The TTB announced that while 881 doctors had applied to the TTB for the certificate in the first four months of 2023, their number saw a record increase following May 14, when Turkey held presidential and parliamentary elections.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP won the majority of seats in parliament on May 14, and Erdoğan finished the race ahead of his main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, but a runoff had to be held because none of the candidates managed to surpass the 50 percent threshold. Erdoğan was elected president for another five years in the runoff election held on May 28.
“The number of doctors who applied to the TTB to get a ‘certificate of good standing’ has increased over the past 15 days far above the average. We will continue to fight against policies that fail to grant doctors their rights, belittle their efforts and do not care about their leaving the country,” the TTB said in its statement.
The TTB was referring to a speech Erdoğan made in March 2022 condemning 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.”
The doctors’ departures are a sad indictment of Erdoğan, who has 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.
There are frequent reports about long waiting periods before crucial surgeries due to the insufficient number of doctors in some hospitals.