Teachers and administrative staff of Cairo University have been on strike since last week demanding an increase in minimum wages, transport workers escalated their strike on Monday after their union representative was arrested and now Doctor Mostafa Al-Behairy has resumed the sit-in and hunger strike he started Saturday at the doctors’ syndicate in Cairo, demanding better working conditions for medical staff.
Al-Behairy, 25, is not the only doctor on hunger strike. A member of the board of the Doctor’s Syndicate Ahmed Hussein has started a hunger strike as well. “I started it yesterday but I’ve only announced it today… I had some work to do this morning but now I am going to the syndicate,” he said.
His first demand, “is that the country drops proposals to raise the salaries of doctors by raising the prices that patients have to pay for services.” These proposals were made by “devils… We doctors will not accept to have our salaries raised at the expense of the poor patients.”
Hussein said this move would not guarantee better services for patients; it would only mean that they pay higher prices. “This will bring an advantage to private hospitals,” since people will be paying higher prices anyway, they might as well get better services, he said.
“Mostafa Al-Behairy makes EGP 900 and he has a daughter that needs EGP 150 worth of milk every month. The country is legalising doctors’ corruption and private work,” he said. Al-Behairy questioned how reasonable it is for someone making EGP 900 to live a dignified life and care for patients at the same time.
Al-Behairy said doctors want a salary that allows them a dignified life, without having to take a second job in a private clinic.
He added that he wants hospitals to be secured because “doctors should not have to work in conditions where they can get beaten, humiliated and insulted.” Hospitals have been subject to violent attacks over the past few months with Al-Qasr Al-Einy Hospital’s emergency room was forced to shut down after one of these incidents.
The third demand, he said was a raise in the government’s share of the budget allocated to medical care to 15 percent, saying that the current budget is four percent. Al-Behairy called on everyone working in the field of medicine to support him and to attend an emergency general assembly to be held by the doctors’ syndicate on Friday.
Mohamed Rakha, from advocacy group Doctors Without Rights, said during the emergency general assembly on Friday, it will be decided if the doctors will strike in October.
According to the group’s Facebook page, the group is hoping that the general assembly will set a date for a partial strike demanding a minimum wage of EGP 3,000 for graduates in return for 36 hours of work a week.
Hussein said that doctors in Alexandria, Daqahliya, where Al-Behairy is from, and South Sinai have held protests in solidarity with Al-Behairy.