CAIRO: Security bodies on Monday prevented dentists from staging a protest outside the People’s Assembly.
Less than 30 members of the Dentists’ Syndicate met opposite the entrance to the PA before making their way the busy Qasr El-Aini street next to the People’s Assembly building.
They congregated in the exact spot which has twice been used for protests by doctors lobbying for better pay and conditions.
Security bodies did not interfere with the two protests held in February by doctors, but on this occasion protesting dentists were ordered to put down the banners they were holding almost immediately after arriving.
Negotiations between Syndicate Head Dr. Mourad Abdel Latif Youssef and of security then took place before the protest was dispersed some thirty minutes later.
Protestors were far outnumbered by plain-clothed policemen, state security officers and riot police.
Speaking after the protest in the Dentists’ Syndicate headquarters, Syndicate treasurer Dr. Nabil El-Attar told Daily News Egypt that Monday’s action was meant to be a symbolic protest to bring attention to what dentists perceive as the unfair manner in which the Ministry of Health distinguishes between them and doctors.
El-Attar said that the Dentists’ Syndicate had originally planned to join forces with the Doctors’ Syndicate, which in recent months began lobbying for improved pay and conditions.
As part of their campaign doctors held two protests outside the People’s Assembly. The Syndicate’s general assembly in February voted to launch a two-hour strike in hospitals on March 15.
This decision was subsequently overturned by the board of the Doctors’ Syndicate after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif publicly stated that such an action is in violation of the law.
During the last general assembly in March doctors voted to hold protests outside hospitals this Wednesday, April 23, calling for a minimum wage of LE 1,000.
“During the extraordinary general assembly held by dentists on March 27 it was decided that dentists and doctors would join together, El-Attar explained.
“We had one demand, a minimum wage.
“The idea was that we would benefit from the doctors, whose are ten times more than dentists working in the Ministry of Health: there are 7,000 – 8,000 dentists working within the Ministry of Health while doctors number 70,000 – 80,000.
New dentists working in the Ministry of Health have a staring salary of LE 240 per month.
El-Attar, who has 31 years of experience, says that he would receive LE 500 per month if it were not for the fact that he is employed as a university professor, and receives LE 1,500 per month.
El-Attar explained that dentists are seeking the amendment of a decree concerning financial benefits paid to members of medical fellowships.
“We sat with [Minister of Health] Dr Hatem El-Gabaly on the Feb. 20. He made it clear that some of our demands – concerning incentive payments – require financing, and said that he will strive to get this funding, El-Attar said.
“We then raised the issue of decree no. 469 issued in 1996, whose amendment doesn’t require any kind of money or funding. The decree states that specialist dentists who are holders of the British fellowship or accreditation from the American Board receive financial allowances of LE 300 or LE 400.
“At the time the decree was issued, 1996, we had still not established the Egyptian fellowship; it was established in 2000.
“Some 150 dentists who work within the Ministry of Health obtained the Egyptian fellowship. The words ‘Egyptian fellowship’ should be added to the decree next to British fellowship and American Board – adding this word doesn’t require money at all and still hasn’t happened, El-Attar continued.
El-Attar says that dentists feel let down by their exclusion from the results of government negotiations with the Doctors’ Syndicate.
“When the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health were in discussions with [head of the Doctors’ Syndicate] Dr. Hamdy El-Sayyed we thought that these discussions would include dentists – in his capacity as head of the Doctors’ Syndicate El-Sayyed is head of the Federation of Medical Syndicates which brings together doctors, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians, El-Attar explained
“When El-Sayyed met the Prime Minister they agreed that LE 388 million would be assigned to doctors in 2008, LE 450 million during the next financial year and that there would be an improvement of nurses’ wages,
“Examination of dentists’ wages however, was delayed until 2010.
“Doctors, nurses and dentists all work in the same place. How is it that the wages of doctors and nurses are increased but dentists are told, ‘sorry, but we’ll review your wages a year and a half from now?’ El-Attar questioned.”All we are asking for is LE 50 million to resolve dentists’ financial problems.it’s not a big amount.
El-Attar suggested that doctors had succeeded in applying pressure on the government through means which dentists lack.
“The Muslim Brotherhood have 20 representatives in the People’s Assembly who are doctors. The government took notice of them, and responded to doctors’ demands he said.
“But what about dentists who are weak and without a Brotherhood presence or lobby group in the People’s Assembly? What happens to them?
El-Attar says that the Syndicate has dismissed the idea of strike action or sit-ins as part of their campaign for improved wages.
“We don’t want to strike or hold sit-ins: we’re of the view that as a profession which is part of the service sector we can’t use these means.we still haven’t reached the point of strikes and sit-ins, he said.
He says that the Syndicate has sent a letter to President Hosni Mubarak requesting that he examine dentists’ demands ahead of its next general assembly meeting scheduled for July.
“We’re not against the regime, the majority of our members are apolitical and moderate. All we want is a just government which treats people equally, El-Attar explained.