Egypt's Doctors Syndicate refers health minister to ethics committee

Ahram Online, Friday 21 Feb 2014

Maha El-Rabat, the health minister, has asked the prosecution to investigate striking doctors

doctors strike
File photo: Mona Mina (R) during a press conference of doctors strike on 1 October 2012 (Photo: Zeinab El-Gundy)

The Egyptian Doctors Syndicate general assembly has decided to refer Health Minister Maha El-Rabat to a syndicate ethics committee and demanded she be expelled from the syndicate for taking action against striking doctors.

A partial strike has been held in public hospitals since early January, Doctors are calling for an increase in governmental healthcare spending and higher salaries for medical professionals.

The ministry responded to the syndicate's move, saying in a statement on Friday that the latter has no right to investigate El-Rabat as she is in an executive post and is not currently in her professional capacity as a doctor.

The ministry also slammed the move as an attempt to use the syndicate to attack the government, stating that the move makes it more difficult to fulfill the syndicate's demands.

Health Minister Maha El-Rabat had on Wednesday referred striking doctor and syndicate board member, Ahmed Shawky to the prosecution on Wednesday on charges of "inciting a strike."

At a Friday meeting of the general assembly, attended by around 400 members, the assembly also decided to continue with the strike and discussed the possibility of a mass resignation campaign for doctors employed by the health ministry.

The syndicate has been making demands for increased wages and healthcare spending since 2011, when it conducted its first nationwide strike.

In October, the government announced a new minimum starting wage of LE1,800 ($260) per month for medical doctors, but the syndicate argued that the figure was inadequate.

The government has tried to downplay the recent strikes. On Wednesday, Rabat said that only 17 percent of public hospitals had participated in the partial strike. 

Rabat added that numbers provided by the syndicate suggesting participation had actually been between 40 and 45 percent were "untrue."

The strike has caused divisions within the syndicate in recent weeks. Mona Mina, the first non-Muslim Brotherhood member to hold the post of syndicate secretary-general in decades, announced she would stand down due to divisions within the syndicate's rank and file that had left her unable to perform her role.

Leaders and members of the syndicate on Monday called on Mina to withdraw her resignation, with many claiming doctors' frustration with government inaction had led them to unfairly shift the blame onto the syndicate.

Mina did not attend Friday’s meeting.

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