File Photo: Chain of doctors protesting against the management of the whole healthcare system, November, 2012 (Photo: Al-Ahram Weekly)
In a first joint effort, Egypt's doctors, dentists and pharmacists began a partial strike on Wednesday to oppose a February presidential decree aiming to regulate the status of doctors employed in state hospitals and institutions.
The doctors on strike are requiring an increase in their basic salaries rather than a bonus being added to their existing salaries, as ordered by the presidential decree. They are also demanding the implementation of the financial and administrative cadre approved in May 2012 by the Doctors' Syndicate general assembly, which proposes a suitable system of pay-scales and promotions.
According to a statement issued by the striking doctors' coordinating committee, participants affirmed that their strike – which they promised to render effective – will include all doctors employed in hospitals run by the Ministry of Health.
The statement added that the striking doctors will continue to provide emergency services such as urgent operations, dialysis, intensive care, nurseries for the newborn and any other health condition requiring urgent treatment.
"The strike will also not include vaccinations or the issuance of birth or death certificates," the statement continued.
Egypt's doctors have undertaken a number of partial strikes since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak. As of 1 January 2014, they have additionally staged by-weekly strikes to demand higher salaries and increased government investment in healthcare services.
The Doctors' Syndicate general assembly last Friday even discussed the possibility of a mass resignation campaign by doctors employed by the health ministry. They also decided to refer Health Minister Maha El-Rabat to a syndicate ethics committee, demanding her expulsion for taking action against striking doctors.
Rabat was summoned by the syndicate and is expected to make a statement on 9 March.
Egypt's interim cabinet resigned on Monday and a new one is set to be formed within days. It remains unknown whether Rabat will retain her post in the coming cabinet.