Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi paid tribute on Tuesday to workers in the health sector workers who "were martyred on the job" and also to those who "are still persevering and sacrificing in their mission to protect Egyptians against the pandemic."
The president’s remarks came during a ceremony to inaugurate a medical complex in Ismailia as well as a number of other hospitals and medical institutions nationwide via videoconference.
“We pay tribute and appreciation to the workers in the health sector whether those who have been martyred during their mission or those who are still performing their very amazing and great role to protect our people from this pandemic,” El-Sisi said.
The Ismailia medical complex will include a number of comprehensive medical units of different specialties as well as emergency departments to provide high-quality services, the presidency said.
The inauguration of new facilities today is part of the country's ongoing plan to enact a new comprehensive health insurance system nationwide.
During the event, El-Sisi launched via videoconference the experimental operation of the new Universal Health Insurance System (UHIS) in three more governorates - which includes Ismailia, Luxor and South Sinai - as part of the first phase in the project.
El-Sisi assured that the state will exert its utmost possible efforts to implement the new health insurance system nationwide in 10 years instead of the previous timeline of 15 years.
The president said he also mandated the health ministry to proceed in the completion of early detection campaigns for Hepatitis C among students at preparatory and secondary schools for the coming five years in order to completely eradicate the disease in Egypt.
El-Sisi also pressed the need for working on spreading health consciousness among citizens as a culture to avoid diseases and handle health problems as early as possible.
He hailed the government and the health ministry for their efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid the partial lockdown the country adopted last year.
Minister Zayed on the UHIS
Speaking at the inugural event in Ismailia, Minister of Health Hala Zayed said Egypt’s new Universal Health Insurance System (UHIS), which targets 100 percent of citizens, will substitute the old system that currently covers only 58 percent of Egyptians.
The minister noted that the country had introduced a series of proactive measures to improve the health conditions of Egyptians ahead of enrollment in the scheme, including the 100 Million Healthy Lives initiatives for treating Hepatitis C patients, early detection of non-communicable diseases, and eliminating the waiting lists for surgeries and treatment.
The average wait for treatment declined from 3 months to a week or less, Zayed added, thanks to the abovementioned steps.
She pointed out that the initiative of eliminating waiting lists cost the country EGP 6 billion, nearly 60% of which was shouldered by the health ministry, with the central bank bearing EGP 1.3 billion, and civil society EGP 700 million.
Up to 70 million citizens over the age of 18 have been screened as part of the initiatives of eliminating Hepatitis C and the early detection of non-communicable diseases, Zayed said.
She added that Egypt saved EGP 64 billion annually by implementing the Hepatitus C initiative.
Other infrastructures and upgrade projects were also implemented to improve facilities to accommodate the targeted numbers of citizens in the new health programme.
The new six-phase healthcare scheme started in Port Said in 2019, with five other governorates set to be included soon.
The programme was scheduled to cover all of Egypt by 2032, but, based on a new schedule announced in late January per El-Sisi directives, the project will be completed nationwide by 2027.
Zayed added that close to 3.5 million medical services have been introduced in Port Said governorate, with beneficiaries contributing 10 percent as the cost of the UHIS' subscription.
As many as 617,000 citizens have so far registered in the scheme and the percentage of citizens’ satisfaction of the service ranges from 90 to 93 percent, she said.
Zayed said the UHIS will be implemented in Ismailia, Luxor, South Sinai, Aswan, and Suez at a total cost of EGP 23 billion.
Dangers of overpopulation
The president highlighted during his remarks the negative impact overpopulation has on thwarting development and the state’s efforts to improve people’s lives.
He highlighted the need for the country to lower the annual population growth rate to 400,000 people per year.
“It is not the state that spends; it is the Egyptian people who spend. It is not us who are suffering; it is the Egyptian people who are suffering,” the president said, highlighting the negative repercussions of overpopulation.
“I’m suffering with you as an official, but eventually, will your son or daughter receive a good level of education or not? Will they receive a good level of treatment or not? Will they receive good nutrition opportunities or not? And will they get a job opportunity or not,” El-Sisi added.
Commenting on recent demands that the president enacts measures to combat overpopulation, El-Sisi said “not all matters should be done toughly. Instead, it should be carried out through a program, and we are working on this program."
El-Sisi said the fact that millions of children are suffering from either anemia or obesity “means that you are not paying attention to your child.”
“Trust me, [having] more than two children is a big problem,” El-Sisi said.
“It is not only important that you feed them. You should pay attention and follow up on them… If there are three or four or more children [per family], you will not be able to do that.”
Acceptance of opposition
Veering into a discussion of politics in general, the president said the state "accepts opposition views that aim to improve people’s lives and not aim to be opposition only for opposition’s sake."
“Yes, people have the right to express their opinion and people have the right to have an opposition,” the president said.
However, the president added, “the goal of expressing opinion and of the political opposition should be to improve people’s living conditions and lives. The goal is not "opposition for the sake of opposition."
"On human rights, they are not limited to the realm of the political," the president stressed.
El-Sisi added that the state accepts opposition “on the condition that the opposition understands what they are talking about.”
“The Egyptian state is very serious about facing its challenges, very honest and faithful about facing its challenges; this [fact] should ease the burden on the opposition,” the president noted.