Doctors across Turkey started a two-day strike on Thursday, protesting against low pay and poor working conditions as the country grapples with its worst economic turbulence in the past two decades.
Members of the local doctors’ union Hekim-Sen, including family physicians and emergency doctors, stopped work, the union said, sharing images of empty clinic halls from several cities and provinces on social media.
The union also cited heavy workload and increasing physical violence from patients as reasons for strikes.
A total of 316 health workers were targeted in 190 separate attacks in 2021 in Turkey, according to local union Saglik-Sen.
Most Turkish households are struggling to make ends meet amid financial problems, exacerbated by the highest inflation in 20 years and recent hikes on energy, food, and other essential needs.
More than 1,400 doctors have left Turkey in 2021 compared to only 59 a decade ago, according to Turkish Medical Association (TTB).
Earlier on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that the nearly 50 percent inflation is temporary and that citizens will need to shoulder the burden for some more time.
In January alone, 197 doctors left, with Germany topping the list followed by Britain, France, and the U.S., TTB Vice-President Vedat Bulut told dpa.
A junior physician earns 5,500 liras (or $404) per month, slightly above the minimum wage, Bulut adds.
“Those who left then help colleagues in Turkey organize and prepare to leave, It resembles the trend back in the 1960s when Turkish guest-workers used to invite friends to work in Germany,’’ Bulut says.
Bulut expects 2022 to see a new record of around 2,500 doctors leaving Turkey in total.
One of the Turkish practitioners who left for Germany is 29-year-old Ismail Aksu.
“We’d prefer to stay in Germany for a better future for our children,’’ Aksu tells dpa, adding that he settled in Germany in December after having financial troubles at home.
Aksu says several of his friends, including nurses, are preparing to leave. “Things in Turkey don’t seem to be improving anytime soon,’’ he said.
It is not only doctors who resent the deteriorating work-life in Turkey.
On Wednesday, leftist labour union DISK called for countrywide protests and strikes, urging the government to withdraw energy price hikes.
“I am unable to pay my rent and bills for a month,’’ Songül Özdemir told dpa during a protest in Istanbul.
“She said she is among nearly 200 workers laid off by a local auto parts production facility a month ago.
In recent weeks, an increasing number of workers across a number of sectors have been protesting for better work conditions.
Last week, residents of Istanbul and elsewhere burned their electricity bills in protests against utility hikes, in an action organized by opposition parties.