Controversy over Egypt's 57357 hospital

Nesmahar Sayed , Thursday 28 Jun 2018

A hospital which has broken new ground in treating children with cancer is facing a campaign of criticism

57357 Hospital
The 57357 Hospital for treating children with cancer (Photo: Mohamed Hassanein)

The 57357 Hospital for treating children with cancer is known throughout Egypt thanks to the state-of-the-art health services it provides free of charge and a huge advertising campaign that intensifies during the holy month of Ramadan.

The campaign, which has succeeded in raising billions of pounds in donations, has been criticised for using ads showing sick children, which some say is an attempt to cash in on their suffering, and also because of the amount spent on publicity.

A recent spate of opinion pieces appearing in the media has questioned the efficacy and transparency of the hospital’s management of donations.

Under the title “Dance with the Wolves” script writer Wahid Hamed roundly criticised the hospital in an opinion piece published in Al-Masry Al-Youm, questioning the way its general manager, Sherif Abul-Naga, runs the facility, and drawing attention to the high salaries paid to hospital employees which Hamed characterised as misuse of donations.

The campaign against the hospital began at the start of Ramadan, with the initial volley thrown by Osama Dawoud on the Veto news site. Hamed then picked up the baton, says Heba Wahba, 57357’s marketing director.

Dawoud claimed the Abul-Naga family has monopolised management of the hospital and wastes large amounts of money on salaries and commercials.

“57357 is a charity affiliated with the Ministry of Social Solidarity which puts a ceiling on the publicity budget which we cannot exceed,” says Wahba. She adds that the minister of health and the governor of Cairo are members of the hospital’s board of trustees which has a final say on spending.

Wahba, who has worked at 57357 for 11 years, said the hospital has been subjected to a campaign of defamation and predicted that it will spread to other institutions, including the yet to be opened heart hospital being built by the Magdi Yacoub Foundation.

An invitation was presented by the hospital to the Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Central Auditing Organisation to audit its budget and donations. “57357 will reveal all the facts about its management of funds after official reports are released by these authorities,” said Wahba.

She told Al-Ahram Weekly that libel cases had been filed against Wahid Hamed, Hamdi Rizk, editor-in-chief of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Osama Dawoud and Veto gate.

In his piece Hamed accused Abul-Naga of selling medications donated to the National Institution of Tumours (NIT). On 26 June, however, Al-Masry Al-Youm published a comment piece by the former dean and a former deputy dean of the National Institution for Tumours denying the allegations. They wrote that all NIT medications are delivered directly to the NIT’s pharmacy.

“This is not the first time that Abul-Naga has faced groundless accusations. As in previous cases the hospital will emerge unscathed,” says Maha Al-Ezabi, a fund-raiser who helped raise donations when the hospital was still under construction.

“Donations are the main source of funding for the hospital and Abul-Naga has been very successful in exploring new ways to increase the hospital’s income. In one recent campaign millions were donated by school students who were encouraged to donate a pound from their own pocket money,” she said.

She also pointed out that medical staff at the hospital work there exclusively. They do not run private clinics which is why the hospital offers them good salaries.

Al-Ezabi denies there is an overspend on advertising, stressing that ad campaigns have generated three times more than they cost.

Sheikh Gamal Qotb, former head of Al-Azhar’s Fatwa Committee, says it is the good reputation of the hospital that has led to donations increasing.

The hospital’s board of trustees issued a statement this week saying that all the allegations had been noted and were being examined.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 June 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly with headline: Controversy over 57357   

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