Egypt's health minister has said security posts and surveillance cameras will be installed at major hospitals, in response to mounting calls by doctors for improved security following recent assaults on physicians in Cairo.
In an interview with Al-Ahram Daily newspaper published Wednesday, minister Ahmed Emad El-Din Rady acknowledged that assaults on Egyptian doctors have repeatedly occurred since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Rady said close circuit cameras will be installed to "boost security at hospitals" and "improve service by recording doctors' attendance," following numerous complaints by patients that doctors are not always available at the emergency centres.
He added that his ministry has been working closely with police to set up security checkpoints of armed personnel at major public hospitals.
The move comes days after a general assembly by Egypt's doctors’ syndicate demanded that policemen who assaulted doctors at a hospital in January be put on trial. The gathering, which was attended by thousands of physicians, also called for better security at hospitals. The assembly promised escalatory measures until demands are met, including protests and plans to start providing totally free service to citizens at public hospitals.
Rady slammed doctors' plans to offer service free-of-charge, saying the decision to waive the meager fees patients pay constitutes an "interference in the responsibilities of the ministers of health, finance, and the state budget."
The minister also vowed to refer to interrogations doctors who do not show up to work.
A public outcry was triggered following the 28 January attack by a group of policemen on two doctors at the Matariya Hospital in east Cairo.
The incident allegedly occurred after one of the doctors refused to include fake injuries in a medical report for one of the policemen.
Doctors went on a partial strike before nine policemen were referred to prosecution for interrogation last week.
When, asked about a recent shortfall in some types of drugs, the minister said around 190 medications are lacking in the Egyptian market due to a halt in production by pharmaceutical firms that was sparked by low sale prices.
He explained, however, that national firms produce equivalents of drugs in shortage.
The minister said a controversial draft health insurance bill would soon be referred to parliament for approval after finalising means of funding.
Critics say the draft bill portents control by the private sector on the country's ailing healthcare system.