In a conference held on March 8th, 2023, the president of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said, “They say the doctors are leaving because they don’t get enough money. Let them go, these places won’t stay empty”. It was always known that healthcare workers in Türkiye were not satisfied with their working conditions, and the ones with the means to leave Türkiye did it as quickly as possible. Even though the issue was ignored by the media for a long time, it was brought to the public's attention because of Erdoğan’s words and sparked many discussions. It even led more doctors to leave the country. The top three countries doctors relocated to in 2022 were announced as Qatar, UAE, and Germany by Fahrettin Koca, Turkish Minister of Health. Interviews and surveys done by Euronews in 2022 on the subject show the main three reasons for the relocation of doctors to be physical and verbal abuse, long shifts, and low salaries doctors get when the other two factors are considered.
The long shifts and disturbances outside the workplace are challenges that are predicted in this profession since it requires dealing with people, but in Türkiye, these challenges often surpass the reasonable limit. The faltering economic state of the country and overpopulation creates these unfavorable working conditions. Due to their economic state, most Turkish citizens can’t afford to pay for private healthcare, which leads to public hospitals being extremely crowded. As a result of the busyness, doctors usually don’t have enough time to thoroughly examine each patient and are exhausted, especially given the fact that there is already a doctor shortage, which forces doctors to work longer shifts. Some assistant doctors even claim that shifts can last up to 36 hours. This results in higher chances for doctors to make mistakes, which is detrimental both to the patient and the doctor. The faulty diagnoses made by doctors and the long lines in hospitals also help build the foundation for violence against doctors.
Unfortunately, the mistreatment of doctors is very common around the world, and
Türkiye is one of the countries where doctor violence has been on the rise for the past couple of years. There were 249 recorded cases with 422 victims and 494 assailants last year, whereas in 2021 there were 190 cases. Out of the 494 assailants in 2022, only 96 were arrested, and criminal investigations were initiated for just 53 of them. One of the most well-known incidents of severe violence against medical professionals in Türkiye occurred in 2005 when Prof. Dr. Göksel Kalaycı, the head of the heart surgery division at Çapa Hospital and the first person to perform a lung transfer in Türkiye, was brutally shot ten times. Fortunately, his murderer was caught and sentenced to a life sentence, but it’s clear from the numbers that this isn’t always the case. Most of these criminals walk away free after causing doctors life-long trauma, so it can be understood why most doctors in Türkiye are considering moving to other countries, most commonly Qatar or Germany, where the assault numbers are lower and the criminals are actually put on trial. According to the surveys conducted by the University of Dusseldorf in 2023, approximately 60% of the doctors in Germany experience abuse in a year, whereas in Türkiye the number is 81%.
Doctor salaries differ based on specialties, but from the previously touched topics, it would be understandable why doctors are some of the highest-paid professionals. In Qatar, average monthly doctor salaries start at 24,611 QAR (6,316 euros) and can reach up to 60,555 QAR (15,541 euros). Another common destination chosen by doctors is European countries like Germany, where average doctor salaries start at 3,290 euros and can reach up to 15,100 euros. Whereas in Türkiye, average salaries start at approximately 48,800 TL (1,670 euros) and reach up to 115,800 TL (3,960 euros). There is a major difference between these numbers, which is a motivation for some doctors to move abroad even when the other two factors are not considered. Of course, the main reason for this salary difference is Türkiye's economic state. Turkish doctors earn more than the Turkish minimum wage, but when compared to other countries, it is understandable why they seek higher salaries, especially considering the duration of their shifts and the abuse they face. In light of all these aspects, it is clear why Turkish doctors are leaving the country at a rapid speed.
Clearly, this issue is going to have detrimental effects on Türkiye since some of the problems that doctors are complaining about occur because of the shortage of doctors in the first place. If doctors keep leaving the country at this rate, the shortage will only worsen, which will make the healthcare system more crowded than it already is. This will reduce its effectiveness and lead to only those with money being able to access high-quality treatments. The shortage of doctors also creates a loop since more workload results in longer shifts, and longer shifts result in doctors leaving the country, which again results in workload. Hence, it can be predicted that there will be a drop in the quality of healthcare which can cause detrimental effects on the lifestyle of citizens and disturbances in the country. Long story short, Türkiye will face many difficulties in the future, if there are no actions taken.
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