Egypt's Medical Syndicate calls for emergency meeting over deadly accident

Sama Osama , Thursday 23 Jan 2020

The accident which sparked public outrage over state mismanagement resulted in the death of three doctors, a driver and a worker, and left 12 wounded

Egypt's Medical Syndicate (Al-Ahram)

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS) has called on Thursday for an emergency general assembly meeting on 7 February at its Cairo headquarters to discuss the road crash that killed three doctors south of Cairo.

The accident sparked public outrage over state mismanagement.

The EMS said in a statement that the decision to convene the meeting followed calls by 220 doctors who said the accident was the result of "administrative arbitrariness".

Earlier this month, a microbus carrying 15 female medical residents from Minya governorate to Cairo to attend a training workshop crashed on a highway near Cairo, killing three doctors, the driver and a worker. Twelve others were wounded in the crash.

It was later revealed that the victims were among a group of doctors who received a surprise notice demanding them to travel to Cairo the following morning to attend a compulsory training as part of a governmental women's health initiative programme, or else face punitive measures.

"The EMS is the highest authority for doctors. It is empowered to take all necessary measures to put an end to the administrative abuse that makes doctors prone to such unfortunate events, protect them during the course of their work and defend their dignity," the syndicate said in a statement on Thursday.

Screenshots showing a conversation on WhatsApp, purportedly between the victims and their superiors, circulating online showed that the doctors were warned that no apologies will be accepted and that "those who do not want to participate in the programme will be reassigned outside the health administration."

Doctors had to arrange for a microbus to take them to Cairo on daybreak as it was not possible for them to find a train reservation or another proper method to travel at such short-notice. Microbus drivers in Egypt are notorious for their reckless driving and ignoring traffic regulations.

One of the wounded doctors was pregnant and lost her foetus and had to undergo a hysterectomy.

EMS head Hussein Khairy called for questioning Minister of Health Hala Zayed over the accident before parliament, criticising administrative arbitrariness in dealing with doctors.

The syndicate's youth committee pledged it will not forego the rights of the victims and said the accident was the result of the Health Ministry's "intransigence and oppression."

The class to which the newly graduated doctors belonged called for a general strike at all health units nationwide to protest against the deaths.

A matter of 'fate'

Speaking to reporters in Luxor days after the accident, Zayed said the accident was a matter of fate, adding that road accidents are outside the jurisdiction of her ministry.

The minister defended the travel decision saying that everywhere around the world there are high-tech training centres where people are required to travel to gain experience.

She dismissed criticism that her ministry has failed to provide the victims with a safe travel means, claiming that all means of transportation in the country are safe and overseen by the government.

The ministry's decision to compensate the wounded and families of the dead sparked further criticism.

Social media users opened fire at the ministry's announcement to send the parents of the deceased doctors to the annual Muslim pilgrimage, as one of the late doctors was a Christian.

Earlier this week, the syndicate ordered the questioning of five health ministry officials including a minister adviser over the accident.

The medical union filed a complaint earlier this week with the country's prosecutor-general demanding an investigation into the accident. It also demanded that prosecutors open an administrative probe.

The union said it would pay financial compensation between 10,000 and 100,000 ($633-$6,334) to the victims.

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