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Egypt Doctors' strike stage mock Minister of Health funeral

On 39th day of strike, hundreds of doctors stage Minister of Health mock funeral march from Tahrir to Maspero to voice their demands against government negligence

Yasmine Wali, Thursday 8 Nov 2012
Staged funeral at doctors
(Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Doctors heighten their demands on their 39th day strike on Thursday, staging a mock funeral march from Omar Makram Mosque near Tahrir square to the nearby Maspero district.

Around 400 hundred doctors were present in front of the mosque in opposition of the government's negligence, as proposed solutions in a previous statement by the doctors have been ignored.

The doctors' partial strike, beginning 1 October, calls for 15 per cent of the state budget instead of the current 5 per cent to be allocated to health spending. The doctors demanded an increase in doctors' salaries and better security at hospitals and medical centres, which have been a target in recent attacks.

The strike does not included universities, police and army hospitals, or emergency rooms.

One demand is "simply, reallocating the same budget fairly amongst the Ministry's employees for better wages instead of huge gaps where some officials take millions and most of doctors receive around LE1000," said a veiled doctor.

"We are insisting on not leaving; they cannot still comprehend that we are not leaving," Mohamed El Banhawy, an otolaryngologist and member of Doctors with No Limits group.

"The country does not respect its people. The constitution that we are now amending [currently being drafted] states healthcare should be given without differentiation between individuals," said Banhawy.

"We don’t want the government to give us salaries by passing the new law and eat up the patient's rights," added Banhawy.
The law expects patients to pay a monthly subscription on every member of the family in addition to other expenses, which could reach LE50 per month beyond the capabilities of the average Egyptian citizen.

Ahmed Ismail, a physician, furiously intervened, "We are also shedding the light on the rights of the patient. We are holding the Ministry of Health accountable for every adult dying with no hospital bed and every baby dying with no incubator."

"This (the strike and the march) is not even one measure of tens that we are approaching in the next period if our demands are not met; we still have many approaches," Mustafa El Beheiry said, a resident doctor and member of April 6 movement.

El Beheiry explained that the only way to disperse the strike is by dismissing all healthcare leaders who benefited from the old regime and to become objective towards the real goals of the ministry.

"Already group resignations have started taking place they (the government and healthcare ministry) cannot believe the magnitude of the issue. Also, resident doctors will refuse the assignment by the ministry, which will create a problem since they will leave and no residents will replace them. This step is already been initiated in Mansura and Assiut governorates and will be throughout the rest of the governments," he added.

April 6 physicians stated in a clear-cut manner that the strike will be dispersed only if the following demands are met:

1- Announcement of a timely plan for next year that includes all the steps to be implemented to achieve demands.
2- Allocate part of the reserves to emergency
3- Issue the cadre law
4- Implement a cadre system

A veiled doctor holding her newly born in a kangaroo bag with weepy eyes said, "I am a gynecologist with 2 Masters and my salary is LE1000 under incentives. If I travel to any Gulf country abroad I will take LE25000. Why? I don’t want to leave my country. I want to stay here."

The veiled gynecologist, who didn’t want to mention her name, boycotted all state-owned newspapers during Mubarak days. They were marketing us as doctors who want to make their patients die and this is the same thing that is happening now, she concluded.

Ahmed Mamdouh, a doctor and Manager of the emergency room in Nasser institute Hospital and critical of the government's stance explained, "Critical patients sometimes have to wait up to twelve hours to find a bed in the emergency room, some do not make it because of their urgent conditions."

Tarek Kamel, a doctor, professor at Cairo University and member of the Wasat Party, said "Only exceptional cases, 2-5 per cent take a real income. However, more that 90 per cent are low income. There is no job satisfaction because the ministry fails to supply them with salaries and materials. This is the real problem."

Doctors chanted around the mock up body and circled it with flags and banners that stated, "The case is a shameful ministry." "Healthcare Minister, welcome back from sleeping this is your last day; your health is in deterioration."

They took a minute of silence for the Minister and started marching through Tahrir to Maspero.

The strike was over when doctors read the Quran on the souls of their patients.

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