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Egypt doctors turn out in massive numbers for rights: Strike committee

At Monday press conference, Doctors Syndicate's strike committee reports high participation rate among doctors in public hospitals nationwide to demand more spending on profession

Zeinab El Gundy , Monday 1 Oct 2012
The Doctors
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The Egyptian Doctors Syndicate's strike committee held a press conference on Monday afternoon at the syndicate's Cairo headquarters, at which committee members provided the latest developments about an ongoing nationwide doctors' strike.

Egyptian doctors have been demanding an increase in state budget allocations for healthcare, better working conditions and an increase in the minimum wage for doctors.

According to strike committee members, hospitals throughout Egypt are participating in the strike, including the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Qena, Luxor, Suez, Port Said and Kafr Al-Sheikh.

Leading committee member Dr. Mona Mina, however, said that not all doctors were participating in the strike.

"In some cases, hospital managers and medical specialists received patients in violation of the decision by the general assembly of doctors' to go on strike today," Dr. Mina said at the press conference. "In other cases, hospital managers have threatened doctors who insisted on striking."

She added: "We urge medical specialists to stand with young doctors in their struggle."

Dr. Mina went on to point out, however, that Egyptian fever hospitals were allowed to continue operating during the strike.

"This is just the first day of the strike; we may escalate it later if there is no response," Dr. Mina said in answer to a question from Ahram Online.

"This strike is being waged for the sake of patients who want better healthcare in public hospitals," Dr. Ahmed Shosha, the strike committee's legal coordinator, said at the conference, stressing that the ongoing labour action was being waged in accordance with international treaties.

According to members of the strike committee, which has been receiving updates from strike coordinators in Egypt's 27 governorates, no deaths have been reported as a result of the labour action.

Dr. Shosha told Ahram Online that the strike had been largely seen as "a success" in light of the high levels of participation by doctors in public hospitals throughout the country.

"I would like to send a message to President Morsi that Egypt's doctors will not give up on their legitimate demands," Dr. Shosha said, which included a "clear timetable" from the government as to how and when it plans to address doctors' grievances.

The strike currently only includes hospitals run by Egypt's health ministry. The strike does not, however, include university hospitals or private hospitals, nor does it extend to doctors working in emergency rooms, neonatal emergency departments or kidney dialysis centres, in line with directives from the syndicate's strike committee.

At the same time the strike committee was holding its press conference, the Doctors Syndicate's board of directors held a separate press conference – also at syndicate headquarters – at which it declared its support for the strike.  

The syndicate board, which had at first opposed the labour stoppage, issued an official statement on Monday describing the strike as "a civilised action that preserves doctors' right to express their views and interests without infringing on patients' rights."

The syndicate board, which is dominated by members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, is considered at odds with the syndicate's reform current, represented by Dr. Mina and other members of the strike committee.

When asked, however, Dr. Mina stressed that the ongoing strike "was for all Egyptians, regardless of their political affiliations."

In the same statement, the syndicate board mentioned that syndicate representatives had met with President Morsi on 22 September. It went on to recount how the president had initially approved an increase in the minimum wage for doctors and an increase in state budget allocations for healthcare to 12 per cent instead of the current 5 per cent.

Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali, meanwhile, described the doctors' strike as a valid example of freedom of expression. He stressed that the state was currently working on meeting doctors' demands, but was starting first with those sectors in most need of financial help.

On Monday, political activists – along with university students from faculties of medicine in Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura and Sohag – held protests to express their solidarity with the doctors' strike.

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