A partial strike by Egyptian doctors on Wednesday has been declared a success by organisers, although the government has downplayed its effects.
The newly elected board of the Doctors Syndicate called for a nationwide partial strike on 1 January and 8 January to demand reform of the health system in Egypt.
The partial strike excludes emergency services.
The syndicate has rejected a pay incentive scheme enshrined in a new law regulating medical professions insisting, instead, on a flat pay increase across the board.
Meanwhile, the Pharmascist syndicate also started a nationwide strike over rejection of the same law.
Minister of Health Maha El-Rabat said at a press conference on Wednesday that only 30 percent of the ministry's hospitals nationwide are participating in the partial strike. She added that 10 of Egypt's 27 governorates were completely unaffected by the calls for the strike and experienced a normal work day.
The ministry has prepared for the strike by dedicating special phone lines that will receive emergency phone calls during the strike, including 123 for ambulance services.
However, Mohsen Azzam, a doctor and one of the organisers of the strike in Gharbiya governorate in the Delta, told Ahram Online that while the participation in the partial strike varied across the governorate, some hospitals saw 100 percent participation rate.
According to Azzam, the Interim Manager of the Manshawy Hospital in Gharbiya has already been reported to the syndicate for strike-breaking.
Amr El-Shora, a member of the doctors' syndicate board and a strike organiser in Greater Cairo, told Ahram Online that the initial incoming reports from Egypt's different governorates show a participation rate ranging from 75 to 85 percent nationwide.
Ragy Baibars, one of the organisers of the strike in Port Said, agreed that the participation level in the strike is very high, although did not give figures.
The Pharmacists Syndicate, which includes around 20,000 pharmacists, also announced that 70% of its members nationwide honoured the strike.
Since 2011 the doctors' syndicate has consistently demanded an increase in doctors' minimum wages at a national level.
The first nationwide doctors strike was in May 2011, covering most public hospitals and several university hospitals. The strikers’ demands included increasing doctors' minimum wages and raising the national health budget from 3.5 percent of the total state budget to 15 percent.
The syndicate also initiated a partial strike from October 2012 to March 2013 to put pressure on the government to meet their demands.
In October, the Egyptian government announced that LE 1,800 per month would be the minimum starting salary for doctors beginning in January 2014, but the Doctors Syndicate argues that this is not an adequate minimum wage for medical professionals.
"The tiny budget dedicated to doctors is being wasted by corruption within the profession," argued Baibars.
The new minimum wage for all public sector workers regardless of rank or specialty is LE1,200 per month. It is due to take effect in January.
The current Board of the Doctors' Syndicate, elected on 15 December, is composed of a coalition of independent members who ended 30 years of Brotherhood domination over the union.