Archive photo of doctors demonstrating at the medical syndicate (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
The health ministry has referred a member of the Doctors' Syndicate to prosecutors for calling a strike on Wednesday, a new escalation in a conflict between the ministry and syndicate over partial strikes by doctors across the country since the beginning of the year to demand an overhaul of Egypt's health care system.
The referral of Dr. Ahmed Shawky is the first in the history of the Doctors' Syndicate, said Dr. Rashwan Shabaan, who like Shawky is a member of the syndicate's board in Cairo.
Shabaan added that he and his colleagues had hoped health minister Dr. Maha El-Rabat would have been more sympathetic to the striking doctors.
The syndicate's board is meeting to discuss its next move as well as how to protect Shawky's rights, Shabaan said.
A partial strike has been held in public hospitals since early January, with doctors calling for an increase in governmental healthcare spending which would translate into better healthcare for patients and hospital employees as well as higher salaries.
The Doctors' Syndicate has been making similar demands since 2011, when it conducted its first nationwide strike ever.
In October last year, the government announced that LE1,800 ($260) per month as the minimum starting salary for doctors. The syndicate argued that it was not an adequate wage for medical professionals.
The government has tried to downplay the recent strikes. Earlier on Wednesday, Rabat said that only 17 percent of public hospitals had participated in the partial strike.
Numbers provided by the syndicate suggesting participation had actually been between 40 and 45 percent were "untrue," Rabat said.
According to Shabaan, the partial strikes will continue until the demands of the doctors are met.