Hundreds of doctors and other protesters formed a chain along Qasr Al-Eini Street in downtown Cairo on Thursday in support of the ongoing doctors strike.
Supporters from groups including the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6 April Youth Movement, the Strong Egypt Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Al-Dostour Party, and the Popular Current held banners and signs advocating health sector reform.
“We are here to participate in the open strike,” said Ahmed Batal, a pediatrician who joined fellow colleagues at the Medical Syndicate. “The ministry hasn’t done anything. They just keep saying, ‘we support you. we’ll do this. we’ll do that.’ If they were really interested, they would seek social justice and not keep up the same practices used under the former regime.”
“These are issues that should have been addressed immediately after the revolution,” said Ali Zidane, a doctor, professor of oncology and member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. “Our hospitals aren’t equipped with enough machines such as MRIs and our operation rooms are not ready for adequately safe operations. The government has to restructure the health ministry and redistribute more money to the health sector to help not just doctors, but everyone in [the] health [sector] including nurses.”
The human chain extended from the syndicate down towards the Ministry of Health, with many of the doctors wearing their white coats. Many held posters with photos of decrepit operating rooms and hospital beds to demonstrate the refurbishing that many of the country’s hospitals desperately need.
Doctors officially began their strike at the beginning of October, demanding an increase in wages, newer equipment, and better security to protect emergency rooms. They claim that the four per cent of the state’s budget currently allocated to the health sector is much too low.
The Ministry of Health has been working with the Medical Syndicate to pass a law that meets doctors’ demands, said Mohamed Shafiq, a member of the strike committee. Shafiq said that the ministry was currently consulting the Ministry of Finance and the Administrative Court to find a sustainable solution to reinforce the health sector. “Up until now, however, we still haven’t seen the items being discussed,” he added.
Ahmed Lotfy, the supervisor of the media committee in the general syndicate, confirmed that the government was taking concrete steps to draft a new law. The Ministry of Health is currently working with the Finance Ministry to ensure the new law would be financially viable.
“A committee was made two months ago, and there have been two meetings per week to work on the issue,” said Lotfy, who said the committee was made up of five ministries and seven syndicates.
The committee aims to finalise the draft of the law to present to Prime Minister Hesham Qandil and President Mohamed Morsy in the second half of December
“We have a promise from the presidency to introduce the law to the new parliament with his recommendation and agree to implement it on 1 July 2013,” said Lotfy.