Doctors staging silent protests in front of Damietta General hospital, Egypt, 20 February 2016 (Photo: Courtesy of Doctors Syndicate Facebook page)
Some Egyptian doctors working in public hospitals begun to provide medical services to patients for free on Saturday, implementing a decision taken by a general assembly of the country's Doctors Syndicate on 12 February.
In an official statement, the syndicate said that the participation of doctors in the initiative to provide medical services for free varied in different governorates, with 80 percent participating in Damietta, Sohag, and Menoufiya, 75 percent in Luxor, 50 percent in Beni Suef, and the Red Sea, 60 percent in Sharqiya and Assiut, and 40 percent in Daqahliya.
The syndicate said in a previous statement that the decision was taken "in accordance with Article 18 of the constitution" and two prime ministerial decisions. The article says in part "every citizen has the right to health and to comprehensive health care which complies with quality standards."
The syndicate said that doctors in the Fayoum and Minya governorates didn't implement the decision.
Eleven hospitals in Cairo, including Mounira General Hospital and Dar El-Salam Hospital, participated “effectively,” the syndicate said.
The health ministry, however, said in a statement on Saturday that all its hospitals were working as usual; spokesman Khaled Megahed said that hospitals witnessed "a normal working day".
On Friday, Health Minister Ahmed Emad sent a brochure to ministry hospitals explaining that work inside them was regulated by internal by-laws, adding that following such by-laws was essential.
Emad pointed that the abstention of an employee from collecting fees for services would subject the employee to questioning, as they would have abstained from enforcing the law and would have wasted public funds.
More than ten thousand doctors gathered at the syndicate's Cairo headquarters during the general assembly earlier this month. Among the decisions taken by the doctors was the decision to launch limited strikes in protest at alleged police assaults against doctors.
Last Saturday, hundreds of Egyptian doctors staged a one-hour demonstration in front of their hospitals over an alleged assault on doctors in Matariya hospital by two policemen.
The demonstrations called for a secure work environment for doctors, demanded the assailants be held accountable, and called for the drafting of legislation imposing heavy penalties on those who assault doctors.