Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1287, (17 - 23 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Doctors won’t give up

Doctors protested in front of their syndicate’s headquarters against police brutality, reports Reem Leila

Doctors won’t give up
Doctors won’t give up
Al-Ahram Weekly

Hundreds of doctors staged a protest on 12 March in front of the downtown headquarters of the Doctors Syndicate against the “continuous brutality” of the police against doctors.

Doctors held banners decrying the assault by policemen on two doctors at Al-Matariya Hospital and demanded that the officers be tried “to preserve the dignity of doctors”. Others called for legislative protection for healthcare facilities, which also criminalises assaults against doctors.

The doctors also chanted slogans demanding protection while on duty and called for enforcing legislation which would better secure hospitals against assaults.

In late January, two policemen were detained after they assaulted two doctors at Al-Matariya Hospital for reportedly refusing to sign forged papers. The policemen, however, were released within 24 hours, angering doctors across the country.

During the protest, doctors repeated their demand for a speedy trial of the policemen who attacked the hospital doctors. The policemen have yet to be referred to trial. Mona Mina, the Doctors Syndicate secretary-general, said doctors intended to hold more protests. “We have sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior informing them of our next big protest on 19 March. A huge numbers of doctors are expected to participate,” Mina said.

According to Mina, doctors are escalating their demonstration because none of their demands have been met. “We have called public hospital doctors who are members of the syndicate to stage strikes outside hospitals across the country to coincide with the protest which will take place at the syndicate’s headquarters,” Mina added.

“Doctors want a huge protest all over the country. We will not end our protest until the authorities concerned meet all our demands.”

Last month, thousands of doctors voted during the syndicate’s extraordinary general assembly meeting to refer the policemen who attacked Al-Matariya Hospital doctors to immediate trial. They also voted to provide free healthcare to patients, including examinations and medication, stopping short at the mandatory fee paid for initial check-ups.

Mohamed Shafik, a member of the media committee affiliated to the Supreme Committee for Doctors on Strike (SCDS), said strikes all over the world can last months. “It took German doctors four months of striking until their government fulfilled their demands. In Israel, doctors stayed on strike for three months in order to pressure their government to accept their demands. We intend to do the same. We won’t give up until the government responds to us,” Shafik said.

A further escalation of strikes might include symbolic trials in public for officials responsible for the deterioration of the healthcare system in the country as well those responsible for the humiliation of doctors, Shafik added. “Various political powers who are supporting our demands will participate in the show trials,” he said.

“It’s our battle, a battle of patience which we intend to win against the government’s negligence. No one is going to fight for us,” said Mina. 

The Doctors Syndicate general committee of the strike has warned hospitals across the country to alert patients to the importance of stocking up on their medication. Thousands of doctors in Egypt’s 387 public hospitals and 1,192 rural hospitals will be on strike which might cause severe shortages in medical services provided to patients. 

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said patients were the only losers. “Doctors must act in a more responsible manner. They have a duty which must be undertaken.” Megahed said. The expected strike could cause at least LE100 million in losses for the Health Ministry since many doctors are examining patients for free. “They want to pressure the ministry by all possible means but their demands won’t be met for seven or eight months. It’s out of our hands. It’s a country’s policy which no one can interfere with,” he added. 

According to Megahed, ministry officials are doing their best to guarantee the flow of work at public hospitals for the welfare of patients. “We will send mobile clinics to hospitals affected by the strike to make up for any deficiencies,” confirmed Megahed.

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