There have been 330 cases of Covid-19 infections among doctors, and the Doctors’ Syndicate announced the 26th death of a member from Covid-19 on Sunday.
“I panic when I hear we are losing doctors to coronavirus,” says Hussein Ahmed, an IT engineer. “When doctors, who should be getting the best care, are falling ill, what are the chances of average citizens?”
Doctors say they still face shortages of PPE, and when Walid Yehia Abdel-Halim, a young physician, died of Covid-19 on 24 May, after struggling to find a hospital bed, many threatened to quit over the failure to provide them with adequate medical care should they contract the virus.
Young doctors are also angry about the new assignment system announced by the Health Ministry last month. Under the system 7,000 newly graduated medical students will be assigned to coronavirus screening and quarantine hospitals across Egypt.
Amr, a recent graduate of medicine, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he is seriously considering a career shift. “Think of the endless logistical, administrative and financial problems public hospitals face in normal times. And now, in the midst of a pandemic? My colleagues and I worry that they are ill-prepared to cope.”
Amr knows many senior doctors, including from among his teachers, who have contracted the virus. Yet according to Minister of Health Hala Zayed, medical teams have all the tools they need to combat the pandemic. Zayed also says a 20-bed ward has been allocated in each quarantine hospital to treat medical staff.
The safety of medical staff in hospitals topped the agenda of a meeting on 28 May between Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and Doctors’ Syndicate head Hussein Khairy.
A senior doctor working in a public hospital in Cairo told the Weekly that it is essential to consider the bigger picture.
“As in many countries, the number of coronavirus patients is more than the capacity of hospitals to treat them,” he said, and allowing people free movement throughout most of the day will result in increasing numbers of infections.
“Doctors are expecting tens of thousands of cases in the coming months. And if they don’t feel protected, how can they be expected to perform at the top of their game? The situation is extremely dangerous. I don’t want to see any more of my colleagues catching the virus.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 June, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Shielding medical staff