As the doctors’ strike heads into a major battle, they have scored a victory by replacing the unpopular secretary-general of their union. Doctors Union Secretary-General Abdel Fattah Rizq has been replaced by Gamal Abdel Salam. Both men are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, however Salam is supportive of the nationwide strike being taken by doctors demanding better protection and an increased portion of the state’s general budget allocated to healthcare.
Rizq on the other hand has spoken on TV and in newspapers of his disdain for the strike. This earned him the ire of many doctors who have put their careers on the line for the strike.
“This will have no impact on the battles taking place from hospital to hospital,” said Mohammed Shafiq of the Doctors’ Strike Committee. “But it is a moral victory for the doctors, a kind of winning.”
The replacement is a moral victory because “it means that [the union heads] are vulnerable to criticism. Rizq was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and very secure,” said Shafiq, so his ouster shows that the demands of the greater union are being heeded.
The elections took place inside the union council and were only meant to resolve proposed replacements to top positions like secretaries and treasurers. The top position of chairman still belongs to Khairy Abdel Dayem, who has supported the strike.
The “moral victory” comes at an important time, as Shafiq said, the Ministry of Health is reported to be making a push to break the strike this Saturday.
Clinic managers are being told to open their ticket windows and issue patients tickets. This is seen as a way of agitating the citizenry against the doctors, because individuals will have appointments and feel personally betrayed that the doctor is not tending to them.
Another avenue the ministry is taking is to tell junior doctors and residents that if they continue to strike, then their internships will be terminated.
Sunday will mark the strike’s 40th day. The doctors recognised the 37th day with a symbolic ‘funeral’ march for health in Egypt. The doctors have also had support from progressive groups that are also demanding health sector reform.