Doctors Start Strikes After Negociations Failure

Doctors started a nationwide strike yesterday on October, 1st [2012], in response to negociations failure between President Mohamed Morsi and the doctors’ union leaders.

Listen to different interviews from today doctors’ strike. The doctors have been demonstrating to reform the current Health Care system. Until now, as they say, hospitals are under-equipped, doctors under-paid and patients not enough taken into account.

(Initially published on Hoqook News Networks website on October 2, 2012 ; the following article was edited, in view of clarity.)

President Morsi had previously agreed on a minimum wage during his meeting with doctors’ syndicate leader, on last September, 22th. The presidential decision had followed two nationwide strikes in May and September 2011. However, the doctors found unsatisfying the government’s proposal to raise doctors’ salaries by raising services prices patients have to pay. Thus, they finally decided to hold the strike on October 1st, as formerly scheduled.

EGYPT-DOCTOR-LABOUR-STRIKE

(Photo credit  Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

A strike limited to public hospitals

The strikes gathered nearly 35,000 doctors from 540 public hospitals, and 50.6 per cent of state-run healthcare structures in 21 governorates were affected. However, the general impact of the protest is mitigated by the fact that it was limited to public hospitals and did not extend to university or private structures. Public hospitals roughly represent 40 percent of all medical services.

Unmet demand of a minimum wage

The government listened to the doctors’ need of a higher pay, although it failed to consider their hopes for a minimum wage of LE 3,000 per month (500 USD). Some doctors working in state institutions earn about LE 100-LE 200 (15-30 USD) per month, plus bonuses. By comparison, the average salary in Egypt is about 400LE.

A low allocation weakening national healthcare services 

The state of healthcare is said to be deteriorating in Egypt. The current allocation for health is around 5 per cent, while doctors are demanding an increase to 15 per cent.

Demand of better working conditions for doctors

Doctors also ask for better living conditions, which implies the establishment of a proper system for doctors’ pay scales and promotions, as well as the establishment of a 36-hour workweek and more security in hospitals. Lack of security in hospitals refers to the attacks of several healthcare structures during the past months.

On the division of doctors’ unions

The strike also raises many issues on the political and labour movement’s side. As in many other cases involving unions and new independent labour organizations, the doctors’ syndicate is currently split in two factions. The strike has been organized by a “strike committee” despite the initial opposition of the Doctors’ Syndicate Board, which is mainly composed of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not all doctors, thus, are taking part in the strike. In some cases, hospital managers threatened the ones who wanted to continue the protest, according to the strike organizers.

Supports and critics to the strike 

Rights organizations and some political groups showed their support and demanded respect for the doctors’ right to demonstrate. Amongst them socialist groups and the moderate Islamist Wasat Party.

At the end of the day, Egypt’s Ministry of Health claimed that the doctors’ open-ended strike was a failure. Abdel Fatah, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, stated that the doctors’ demands are impossible to meet and that the protest is sustained only by a group of leftists.

On the future of healthcare system

Previous doctors’ demonstrations lead to a dead-end. Political will is needed, but the possibilities for the government to answer all the grievances seem to be slimming, taking into account the terrible status of the Egyptian economy and the measures required for the loan of $4.8 billion discussed with the International Monetary Fund.

However, the future of the healthcare system is at stake. The same for those of education and workers’ rights, as showed by different demonstrations in transport, education and health sectors.

In recent years and particularly since the 2011 revolution, labour strikes have become an increasingly common phenomenon in Egypt. If society cares for its doctors, then doctors will care for their patients.

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