The Turkish government has failed to issue licenses for at least 1,100 newly graduated medical doctors, who have still been waiting for the security/intelligence investigation to be completed after they graduated from medical school under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
According a report by BBC Türkçe, the newly graduated doctors have not started to work yet as they could not serve the two-year compulsory service under Turkey’s state of emergency (OHAL). The report said the unassigned doctors look for minimum wage jobs such as grocery or construction workers and pharmacy apprentices while waiting for the notifications on their security checks.
The executive decree No. 676 (October 29, 2016) was supplemented with the Law No. 657 on the State Officer and it enabled the condition that “security investigation and archive search were made” for the civil servants. Until that decree, the doctors could be assigned maximum in 2 months after graduating from medical school without any inquiry as long as they did not work at institutions with classified status.
However, the decree has also affected newly graduated medical doctors and nearly 1,100 physicians who graduated in June and July of this year have still been waiting for the security investigation to be completed for more than six months and this prevents them from working as public employees.
Turkish Ministry of Health, which made a written statement to the BBC Turkish about the issue and said that “the delays are due to security investigations and notifications are made to doctors when security investigations are completed.”
Physicians who are still not assigned tell other physicians who graduated in their school class that they are worried about the notifications being made as they have difficulties and they are subjected to serious neighborhood pressure.
Doctors speaking to BBC Turkish wanted to remain anonymous because they were in the process of waiting for the civil service, even if they had not started their profession yet. A female doctor, who was assigned to a hospital after waiting for six months for her notice, said that her mother, who has a heart disease, fell sick suddenly during the process. “In the waiting period, my mother fell sick and was taken to heart surgery, and was in long intensive care.” When she woke up a few days later, the first thing she asked was “Are you assigned?”
The young woman says she had to take her mother to a private hospital because of an emergency, but later when her mother was discharged, they could not go for a checkup because of lack of money.
She explains why she started looking for a job and what happened to her in a pharmacy: “I came to a pharmacist looking for an apprentice. But then they replied, ‘We are ashamed to employ a doctor.’ So they did not hire me, so I’m looking at things like grocery shopping, waitresses, etc. I have a friend who has to work as a construction worker.”
“I feel very bad because I studied for many years to make my mother proud and I wanted to be a doctor because I thought that the doctors would be assigned shortly when they graduated so that I could help [my family] in a short time. Now, I see myself as a criminal even in my dreams,” says the young woman, who was constantly being accused by relatives and the neighbors because she could not be assigned.
A doctor, who was assigned to the Şanlıurfa Education Research Hospital and married a month ago, told BBC Türkçe that when she applied for a job she got the answer: “We can not get a doctor to work in this job.”
“We have to make a living for our family, as any person who has studied for so many years and has reached the age of 28. If I need to be a porterage, then I am going to be a porterage. I am in debt. Believe me, many of my friends, including myself, are depressed. I believe the suicide cases will begin if the process extends a little longer. We have not gone out of the house for six months.”
Another doctor said that he has been questioned by his fiancee’s family about his financial difficulties because he has not been assigned yet. He graduated from Sivas Cumhuriyet University Faculty of Medicine this year as one of the eight children of a poor family. He and his family described how they live in this 6 month period: “My family is in a very bad situation. My father retired after I completed the medical faculties and he won’t work anymore. Since I thought that I would be assigned soon, he stopped working. However, now my dad, who is 65, had to start working again in a construction in İstanbul.
“As I have not been assigned yet, I thought about finding another job. But I gave up. I was afraid of those around us thinking ‘he becomes a doctor, but he still works in another job, maybe he lied to us’. My fiancee’s parents almost regret that they allowed their daughter to marry me. I am very embarrassed.”
Those who have not passed the security investigation yet, said that they are referred to as “suspects” according to some sources. “We do not know this yet, and we do not know any official explanation, we are wondering why we are in question. Some say that we are linked to FETÖ, (a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to refer to the Gülen movement) and some say we are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).”
Another young woman, who received her notification even if it was quite late, has told BBC Türkçe that she had started to work in a state hospital in İstanbul as a waitress for a while and people has started to call her ‘doctor waiter.’
The doctors who can not pass the government’s security investigation to be a public officer will not be able to perform their professions in any institutions including private hospitals in the future, because they can’t do the two-year mandatory service in public hospitals.
More than 21,000 health care professionals including doctors, nurses, medical professors, technicians and hospital staff have thus far been dismissed from public and private hospitals as well as medical schools and associations in Turkey as part of a crackdown on perceived critics of the government, research by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed on Wednesday.
Many of these purged health care professionals have faced criminal proceedings on fabricated terrorism and coup plotting charges by the authoritarian government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, scientific publishers and health authorities have ended up in jail, where they face torture and ill treatment, as part of an unprecedented crackdown on real or perceived critics of the regime.
Those who are still not in jail risk imprisonment as well because the government, without any administrative or judicial probe, branded them as terrorists overnight and will soon come after them once the backlog eases in the criminal justice system, which has locked up over 50,000 people within the last year. Only a fraction of those dismissed are able to leave Turkey because the government has cancelled the passports of health care professionals or has rejected passport applications for family members.