Doctors to stage second strike on Tuesday

Salma Shukrallah, Monday 16 May 2011

Following the perceived success of last week's nationwide strike, an open-ended strike has been called for tomorrow demanding improved working conditions and salary increases

Doctors strike

The High Committee responsible for organising last week’s first nationwide doctors’ strike, are calling for another strike starting tomorrow. 

On Monday, civilians and political groups joined a solidarity demonstration supporting the doctors' demands after they sent out an invitation on Sunday reading: "tomorrow a solidarity demonstration at 3pm for civilians and all political groups to support Egyptian doctors' demands for a better health care system for all Egyptians."

The doctors' demands include an increase in salaries, the provision of security in hospitals and an increase in the national health budget from the current 3.5 per cent to 15 per cent. The doctors are also demanding the removal of the minister of health, Ashraf Hatem, who they describe as a member of the old regime.

The first strike was considered a great success and was observed by 65 per cent of hospitals in Cairo and Giza and 90 per cent of hospitals in other governorates. 

The doctors are planning another strike starting 17 May, but this time it is planned to be an open-ended one until their demands are met. The strike on 10 May was planned to last for one whole day only. The strike started at 9am and ended at 2pm, covering the normal working hours of public clinics, and did not include intensive care units, emergency rooms, delivery rooms or emergency surgery operating rooms.

Those who did not join the strike included head of the Doctors' Syndicate Hamdy El-Sayed and health minister Ahraf Hatem. In response, the doctors' strike committee created a "black list" of those who did not take part and said they would be sent to a disciplinary committee. Since the strike had been approved by the syndicate's General Assembly, doctors claim to have the right to punish those who refused to abide with the decision to strike, as stipulated in Article 51 of Section 5 of the syndicate’s law.

However, Egypt's interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced his intention to meet with Hamdy El-Saied, Shawqy El-Hadad, Osama Raslan, Essam El-Erian, Magdy Abd El-Khalek and Ahmed Imam on Tuesday to discuss the potential of increasing the health budget, in an attempt to influence the doctors' decision to start the open-ended strike planned to begin tomorrow.

Meanwhile, on Monday the doctors' committee filed five complaints to the prosecutor-general. One is against Health Minister Ashraf Hatem, accusing him of using his position as general manager of Cairo University Hospitals to assist a former National Democratic Party member in parliamentary elections.

The other complaints concern the director of the Quarantine department for giving permits to non-specialists as well as the current and former ministers of endowment. The chairman of the board of directors of Cairo’s health insurance is accused of corruption and the misuse of public funds. 

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