Doctor strike in Mallawy public hospital in Minya, Egypt, January 8, 2014 (Photo courtesy of The High Committee of the Doctors Strike Facebook page)
Doctors at public hospitals are taking their months-long strike to a new level to protest the government's alleged inaction towards their longstanding demands.
Egyptian physicians plan a nationwide "administrative" strike starting Tuesday, in a new escalation to bring pressure to bear on the authorities and reiterate demands for health care reforms and better pay.
The open-ended workplace action is planned across all the government's hospital, health insurance centres and health units, and applies to all Egyptian physicians whether appointed, contract-based or delegates, according to a protocol issued on Sunday by the High Committee of the Doctors Strike.
The committee, which belongs to the independent doctors syndicate, is in charge of regulating the strike, which draws in pharmacists and dentists as well.
Doctors and other health professionals who work in government hospitals have been holding a partial strike since the beginning of the year and an open-ended one since 8 March.
Their key demands are reforms to the health care system, an increase in health spending and a rise in the minimum wage for doctors.
Doctors say their longstanding demands have fallen on deaf ears in the corridors of power, accusing the government of doing little to improve health care in the country since the 2011 uprising.
As of Tuesday, strikers will refrain from issuing essential medical documents required for a range of purposes including: overseas employment, driving licenses, conscription, marriage and performing Umrah (the minor Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.)
The strike, however, excludes the issuance of the birth/death certificates and vaccination, the committee said.
"Clinics are committed to issuing medical documents needed for marriage, Umrah or travelling overseas on Mondays and Thursdays [only] so that necessary measures will not be held up," the protocol added.
Ahram Online could not immediately reach the strike organisers.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab urged doctors in mid-March to call off their strike for three months in order to allow the government adequate time to address their grievances. Doctors have gone on strike more than once since the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The first nationwide doctors strike took place in May 2011, covering most public and several university hospitals. Their demands included raising the national health budget from 3.5 to 15 percent of the state budget and a higher minimum wage.