The Doctors’ Syndicate, which has long been battling for the passing of the draft Staff Law, said it rejects the recent law ratified by Interim President Adly Mansour.
The syndicate said in a statement on Tuesday that it rejects the Law for Organising Affairs of Medical Professionals “altogether”, and that it still stands by the draft Staff Law, which, if passed, would organise financial and administrative affairs like training, promotions and working hours for all medical professionals in the public healthcare sector.
Rapporteur of the Media Committee of the Doctors’ Syndicate Hossam Kamal said the new law, passed by Mansour last Thursday, is “extremely different than the draft Staff Law”. Kamal said the administrative aspect of the draft law would not have cost the state any money. He objected to the financial raises that the new law calls for because it increases incentives and bonuses, rather than doctors’ fixed salaries.
A bulk of doctors’ incomes is made up of bonuses and incentives; however, doctors demand that pay raises increase their fixed salary, which the draft Staff Law would achieve if passed.
The amount of incentives a doctor receives is based on their performance, which is assessed by the hospital administration: if the “manager is dissatisfied with a doctor, they get less in incentives,” Kamal said.
After retiring, a doctor’s pension is determined based on the fixed salary; therefore, increasing incentives will not increase doctors’ pensions, which doctors say are not enough. As it stands, the fixed salary of an entry level doctor can be as little as EGP 200 and bonuses and incentives are only paid if there is money available at the time.
The syndicate said the law was approved without presenting for discussion a final draft to those affected by the law. There were, however, negotiations in December between representatives of the syndicate and the ministries of Health and Finance.
During the talks, Kamal said the doctors demanded a time table for implementing the law be set, adding that “the government was speaking and listening to itself”.
Eventually, the negotiations broke down and doctors proceeded with their plans to strike in January.
The new law applies to physicians, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists, physiotherapists, nursing staff and technical staff. The syndicate criticised several articles in the law, including Article 11, which stipulates that emergency physicians receive a 300% incentive, when emergency physicians already receive a 400% incentive.
The syndicate said: “ Implementing this law will mostly lead to deterioration in the public healthcare sector,” adding that it will also aggravate discontent among healthcare professionals and may drive them to quit working for public hospitals.
Doctors held two partial strikes, one on 1 January and another on 8 January. They later agreed to strike twice a week in February, Monday and Wednesday, and three times a week in March. The first two strikes were marked by higher participation rates than those in February. Kamal cited the reason as doctors are “feeling very frustrated and [have] lost hope in [the effectiveness of] partial strikes”.
The syndicate was scheduled to hold a General Assembly meeting last Friday, but it was postponed to 21 February due to a lack of quorum. Doctors will then discuss escalatory steps; Kamal said two possible actions involve an open-ended strike, such as the 82-day partial strike they held in 2012, or collecting group resignations, which would not be handed in individually but by the syndicate, when the number of resignations collected reaches 20,000, or a “critical mass”.
With current conditions, many doctors are choosing to work outside of Egypt. Out of 250,000 Egyptian doctors, only 90,000 work inside Egypt and only 60,000 of those work in the public health sector, while the rest belong to private practices, said Rapporteur of the External Affairs Committee Emtiaz Hassouna.
The draft Staff Law has been reached through coordination between unions of all medical professionals and relevant ministries and was drafted after about 30 meetings.
The draft was handed to the Shura Council in 2013, but the legislature did not survive to pass it.