CAIRO: About 1,500 doctors started Tuesday a full, open strike at 20 public hospitals nationwide until their demands are met, following a three-day partial strike.
"Since Saturday, no health ministry officials attempted to talk to us which made us resort to escalation measures," Ahmed Atef, a plastic surgeon at El-Nil hospital in Qalyoubiya’s Shoubra El-Kheima district, told Daily News Egypt.
The strike will not be applied to patients already admitted at these hospitals. "It will only entail new patients, while offering them nearby alternative hospitals…so as not to obstruct such a vital sector," Atef said.
Egypt’s Doctors’ Coalition had started a partial strike on Sept. 10 to demand the dismissal of the health minister’s "corrupt" assistants, better wages and security at hospitals.
"I personally graduated in 2006 and my basic salary is LE 292. And bonuses and any other extra payments are always controlled by the manager of the hospital," Atef said.
The doctors further requested better working conditions that help them do their job in a satisfactory way.
"There is a deficiency in the public healthcare system in the country. If any minister has a child who falls sick, I bet he will never take him to a public hospital," Atef argued.
Doctors also complained of deteriorating security at public hospitals as more incidents of attacks on doctors have recently been reported.
Doctors had organized two partial strikes on May 10 and 17, with more than 80 percent of physicians participating nationwide. They called for similar demands in addition to dismissing then-Minister of Health Ashraf Hatem and raising the health budget from 3.5 percent to 15 percent of the national budget.
"We suspended the strike at that time after we had meetings with the prime minister. But since then no concrete results have ever been achieved," Atef said.
"Similar strikes happened many times all over the world…including countries where healthcare is on top of their national budgets," he added.
On Tuesday, Minister of Heath Amr Helmy said in an official statement that the ministry had taken steps towards achieving the doctors’ demands.
Among these steps were negotiations currently underway with the finance ministry to set a new payment system as well as talks with the interior ministry to provide policemen to protect public hospitals.
"We are done being promised. We need to see results," Atef said, adding that the doctors call for stamped ministerial decrees with a clear timeframe to meet their demands.