Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

The first to blink

Doctors do not intend to end their strike until all their demands are met, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

The doctors’ strike which began on 1 October and which entered its sixth week on Monday, marks what appears to be a genuine intention by physicians not to surrender until the government responds to their demands. Punctuating the situation, they staged a symbolic funeral on 8 November commemorating the death of the health sector in the country.
Hundreds of doctors marched from Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square past Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Abdel-Moneim Riad Square before reaching their final destination in front of the TV Maspero building.
The march began by laying the “health coffin” on the floor in front of Omar Makram Mosque where they recited the first verse of the Quran and chanted “There is no God but Allah, health has passed away”. The act is part of religious processions usually carried out in funerals.
Doctors marched while holding aloft a symbolic coffin wrapped in a white sheet on which the word “health” was written. A black ribbon was tied at one corner. In the protest, doctors shouted out several of their complaints and demands:
“We demand patients’ rights/ Strike is our only weapon against the government’s ignorance/ We want to lead a decent life void of begging at the end of each month/ Stadiums are protected with tanks while hospitals are left for gangs/ The government’s ignorance is killing patients.”
Several political movements took part in the march including 6 April, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Revolutionary Democratic Union, the Egyptian Socialist Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP).
Mohamed Shafik, a member of the media committee affiliated to the Supreme Committee for Doctors on Strike (SCDS), said the strike could last for months. “It took German doctors four months of striking until their government met their demands. In Israel, doctors kept striking for three months to pressure their government into accepting their requests. We intend to do the same. We won’t give up until the government responds to us,” said Shafik.
Talking about further escalation, Shafik said doctors intend to conduct “symbolic trials in public for officials responsible for the deterioration of the healthcare system in the country. Various political powers who are supporting our demands will participate in the trials,” said Shafik.
The Doctors Syndicate held an internal election at the beginning of this week to change the syndicate’s treasurer and secretaries. Doctors say they achieved a “special victory” by succeeding in replacing the syndicate’s secretary-general Abdel-Fattah Rizk by Gamal Abdel-Salam. Abdel-Salam is supporting the strike while Rizk has been condemning it, blaming doctors for neglecting their “sacred role towards patients”. The post of the syndicate chairman is still occupied by Khairi Abdel-Dayem who is with the strike.
Mona Mina, a doctor on strike and a member of the syndicate’s board of directories, said the results of the elections “revealed our moral victory. This victory shows that some of the syndicate’s big shots are vulnerable and weak. They cannot take any criticism and are unable to take strong stances,” said Mina.
“It’s our battle: the battle of patience which we intend to win against the government’s negligence. No one is going to fight for us,” said Mina.
Top ministry officials are currently threatening junior doctors and residents with terminating their internship if they continue participating in the strike. Amr Kandil, assistant to the health minister for preventive diseases, says the chaos must end. “Patients are the only losers. Doctors must act in a more responsible manner. They have a duty which must be undertaken,” said Kandil, “Both President Mohamed Morsi and Health Minister Mohamed Mustafa have promised doctors that their problems will be solved by the beginning of the new fiscal year. So will doctors continue their strike until next July? This is totally irresponsible behaviour.”
The demands by doctors include increasing the health budget to 15 per cent of the state’s budget instead of the current five per cent. They also want the government to protect public hospitals against thugs, in addition to hiking their salaries.
According to Kandil, the strike resulted in at least LE100 million losses for the Health Ministry since many of the doctors examined patients for free. “They want to pressure the ministry by all possible means, yet their demands won’t be met until seven or eight months from now. It’s out of our hands. It’s the country’s policy which no one can interfere with.”

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