Turkish doctor emigrating over poor wages, high inflation at home - New York Times

Turkey’s doctors are packing up and looking to leave the country over poor wages, rising inflation and feelings of dejection after two years of hard work fighting COVID-19, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. 

The flight of Turkish doctors abroad carries a particular sting for the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which presided over the creation of a universal healthcare program that provided millions with medical care. The reforms introduced provisions that contributed to the growth of private healthcare services that reduced some of the burden on a more centralised system of care run by the state. 

Fast forward two decades and the Turkish economy is in a dramatically different place, suffering from high inflation and a battered Turkish lira. Doctors who spoke to the New York Times complain that the deterioration of the Turkish economy has weighed on their choice to leave as their salaries drop to a level just above minimum wage. 

Beyond economic reasons, Turkish doctors who spoke to the Times complained that their profession was being actively devalued by the Turkish government. Despite increasing coverage for more citizens, the caseload grew only heavier for doctors, a factor exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Concerns about their physical safety were also cited as reasons to emigrate. According to one report from 2020, over 90,000 attacks on medical staff on behalf of relatives of the patients were registered in the entire country in the last decade. The government has a system for accounting for attacks on medical professionals, but doctors have complained that their attackers are not being deterred. 

Frustration among Turkish healthcare workers has approached a boiling point. On February 8, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) announced a nationwide strike and protested in front of the Turkish parliament in Ankara. The demonstrators complained about their lack of pay, hazardous working conditions amid the pandemic and about being overworked. The TTB itself acknowledged this confluence of complaints as a motivating factor for many Turkish doctor to seek new lives abroad.

 

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