A general assembly convened by Egypt's Doctors Syndicate decided Friday to provide medical service to citizens for free in public hospitals starting 26 February as long as the policemen accused of assaulting doctors at Matariya Hospital are not referred to court.
The syndicate also referred health minister Ahmed Emad to a disciplinary committee and demanded that he be sacked for failing to protect and ensure the safety of doctors.
The assembly was held in response to the 28 January attack where policemen allegedly assaulted two doctors at Cairo’s Matariya Hospital after one of the doctors refused to fake a medical report for one of the policemen.
The assault caused the Matariya Hospital staff to strike and shut down the hospital. However, the prosecutor-general ordered the doctors to end their strike and reopen the hospital. The doctors responded by opening the emergency room only.
On Thursday, Cairo prosecutors charged nine low-ranking policemen with “assaulting public officials” and “using violence” over the Matariya Hospital incident.
Protests will be organised starting 20 February in hospitals all over Egypt, and the syndicate has called on physicians operating private practices to show solidarity by either closing their clinics or providing free treatment on 19 March, Egypt's National Doctor Day.
The syndicate also demanded security be provided for medical facilities in Egypt, and that the prime minister issue a decision obliging the administration of medical facilities and police to report any attack on doctors or medical facilities, with such attacks being considered assaults on a governmental facility or a public official.
The assembly agreed to give doctors the right to strike if they or their facilities are attacked until their workplace is secured, and that anyone interfering with these measures be referred to a disciplinary committee.
The syndicate demanded that parliament issue legislation that penalises attacks against hospitals, including attacks by "security and Ministry of Interior personnel."
The assembly called for the installation of CCTV cameras in hospital ER rooms and corridors and to ban the entry of any armed person to any medical facility, with the exception of hospital security.
In a short TV interview on Friday, syndicate head Hussein Khairy said that the general assembly was the highest authority in the syndicate and that its decisions were binding for all those under syndicate jurisdiction.
Syndicate secretary-general Mona Mina said in media statements that the syndicate's board was standing behind the staff of Matariya Hospital and that all doctors stand with the board.
Mina, a veteran medical rights activist, added that the syndicate was being targeted for its previous positions, including strikes over public sector reforms, and that further measures for escalating protests remain available.
"However, these measures will never be against the citizens because society is standing with us in this crisis," she said.
Delegations from several syndicates showed up at the Doctors Syndicate headquarters to show support for the doctors on Friday.
In his first official reaction after the general assembly's meeting, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail met with the minister of health to discuss the latest update on the Matariya Hospital incident, according the cabinet.
Health minister Emad presented Ismail with a report on the incident and the Ministry of Health's effort to contain the situation.
Ismail stressed on the importance of completing the investigation into incident and that those who are found guilty of any wrongdoing be punished.
At least 4,000 doctors gathered in front of the syndicate headquarters in downtown Cairo on Friday morning to attend the general assembly meeting.
Traffic reached a standstill outside the syndicate on Qasr El-Aini Street as doctors entered the syndicate building.
Some held signs reading “where’s the law and the constitution?” and “immediate trial for those who humiliate doctors.”
As the number of attendees increased, security personnel and vehicles were stationed in the vicinity of the syndicate headquarters.