Doctors warn of pending strike action

Sarah Carr
5 Min Read

CAIRO: In a protest outside the People’s Assembly Sunday doctors said they will launch strike action on March 15 if their demands for improved pay were not met.

This is the second protest in a fortnight to be organized by the Doctors’ Syndicate.

Ahmed Imam, a member of the Syndicate, told Daily News Egypt that the Syndicate will meet Health Ministry representatives next month.

“The assistant health minister will meet with the Syndicate on March 4. If our demands are not met we will launch a two-hour symbolic strike on the March 15, Imam explained.

The Doctors’ Syndicate is calling for a LE 1,000 minimum wage for doctors.

Young doctors at the beginning of their career are paid an average of LE 230.

Head of the Doctors’ Syndicate Hamdy El-Sayyed told reporters at the protest that poor pay threatens to drive doctors out of the profession.

“A doctor who works in Heliopolis and travels every day to work in 15th of May City, earns LE 180 a month. How can LE 180 be enough for a young doctor who has spent eight years studying? How can he continue his studies and start a family on this wage? El-Sayyed asked.

“Young doctors have a long path of study and training ahead of them. I want to encourage them, I don’t want doctors to leave the profession and work in the pharmaceutical industry, or leave Egypt and work abroad, he continued.

According to El-Sayyed, doctors want a fixed monthly wage and reject salary increases in the form of allowances or incentive payments.

“Cleaners earn LE 20 or 30 or 50. A doctor who does a 24 hour shift is meant to be paid LE 22.50 but in reality rarely receives this incentive payment. That’s why doctors reject incentive payments and allowances, he said. “The government issues incentive payments, the Ministry of Finance provides the funds for the payments, but they don’t reach doctors.

El-Sayyed says that in 2005 the Prime Minister issued a masters degree incentive payment which, three years later, has been received by only 10 percent of doctors.

“Doctors want a fixed sum they can depend on every month, he told reporters.

In May 2007 doctors formed the Doctors Without Rights group, which lobbies for improvements in doctors’ working conditions.

The group’s founding statement lists low salaries, negligence in government hospitals and the economic exploitation of patients in private clinics as the motivating factors behind the group’s establishment

Low wages force many Ministry of Health-employed doctors to supplement their income by working in private clinics but, as the founding statement points out, this solution is untenable given that there are 170,000 doctors in Egypt and only 40,000 private clinics.

“We want to offer a high standard of healthcare in Egypt. We don’t want doctors to have to absent themselves from their hospital duties in order to run after work in clinics because they’re not even making enough money to cover the transport costs of getting to work, El-Sayyed said.

“If the situation continues like this, the Egyptian medical profession – which has always played a leading role in the Arab region – will suffer because of policies that are implemented without any thought for their effects, he continued.

El-Sayyed expressed scepticism about the government’s reasons for not increasing doctors’ pay.

“The government says that it doesn’t want to give an increased wage to doctors because if it did, engineers and other professions would demand the same. But other professions don’t have the same amount of responsibility as doctors. What other profession involves seven years of study and five years of training? El-Sayyed said

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Sarah Carr is a British-Egyptian journalist in Cairo. She blogs at
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