CAIRO: Lobby group Doctors Without Rights have criticized the conditions attached to wage increases under a ministerial decree passed last month.
Ministerial decree 318 – passed in response to the wage increase demands of doctors employed by the Ministry of Health – pegs the percentage wage increases doctors will receive to their seniority and specialty.
Percentage increases, termed in the decree as a “doctor’s incentive payment, range between 30 percent and 400 percent.
Article 3 of the decree provides that “the payment of these incentive payments is linked to the availability of finances.
Doctors Without Rights says in a statement on its website that this connection makes the payment of the increase “extremely uncertain.
It further criticizes the classification of the increase as an “incentive payment.
Following a meeting between representatives of the Doctors’ Syndicate and Minister of Health Hatem El-Gabaly last month, the syndicate published details of the wage increases promised by the Ministry of Health before decree 318 was made public.
The syndicate had said that from November 2008, pay will be linked to performance but that only 30 percent of a doctor’s salary would be linked to performance evaluation.
“The increase is an incentive payment and will therefore, without doubt, be subject to evaluation, the Doctors Without Rights statement reads.
“The ministerial decree does not, however, put in place any clear criteria for this evaluation.
“Furthermore, it does not confirm the Minister [of Health]’s verbal promises that the payment of 70 percent of these increases will be fixed while payment of only 30 percent of the increase would be contingent on evaluation, the statement continues.
Doctors Without Rights are also fiercely critical of the vast differences in percentage increases allocated to specialists compared with what is promised to resident doctors, and question whether this is “an attempt by the ministry to break the ranks of doctors and weaken their strength.
Under the decree resident doctors will receive an increase of 300 percent while specialist doctors will receive a 30 percent increase.
“While the ministry’s official response is that this is the first phase, the verbal promises made about the second and third phases have not resulted in any official decisions with regards to timing [of future payments] or the amounts due.
The statement goes on to refer to Ministry of Health officials who are reported to have said that specialists enjoy better financial circumstances than those of residents because of the stability of their private work.
Low wages within the public health sector force many doctors to seek work in private clinics in order to supplement their salaries. After 20 years in the profession, a Ministry of Health-employed doctor may receive a monthly salary of only LE 700.
“We are amazed that the ministry calculates what a doctor’s entitlements are on the basis of their estimation of the income he receives from his private work, Doctors Without Rights said in the statement.
“What if the doctor is not privately employed? Will the Ministry sympathize and accept that he puts aside the years of experience he has obtained and be demoted to a resident doctor?
Doctors Without Rights are calling for a 300 percent across the board increase for all Ministry of Health doctors. The group is currently collecting doctors’ signatures which will be sent to the Ministry of Health as part of their campaign for improved wages.
The group also underlined the necessity of scrapping article 3 of the decree and renews their demand for a LE 300 occupational diseases allowance voted for at the last general assembly of the Tanta Syndicate.
In July, Doctors Without Right member Dr Mona Mina told Daily News Egypt, “We have not yet received this, and would prefer that we be guaranteed this small sum rather than be promised a bigger pay increase which we never actually receive.
For its part, the Doctors’ Syndicate in a statement issued yesterday on its website said it was “following up on the implementation of the decree within three months.
It thanked doctors for “standing behind the syndicate and said that it would “not waiver from its demand for a minimum wage.
In February, a general assembly meeting of the Doctors’ Syndicate voted unanimously for a two-hour symbolic strike to bring attention to doctors’ demands for a LE 1,000 minimum wage.
While syndicate leadership initially endorsed the strike action, it took the decision to “postpone it without consulting doctors after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said during a radio interview that strikes by public sector workers are illegal.
Doctors Without Rights organized a weeklong sit-in on the steps of the syndicate in protest at the decision, which was ignored by syndicate leadership who dismissed the group as an “unrepresentative minority.
Doctors Without Rights have launched a legal case to prove the legality of strikes by public sector-employed doctors.