CAIRO: Lobby group Doctors Without Rights (DWR) said at a protest Friday that the board of the Doctors’ Syndicate has failed to implement resolutions voted on by the Syndicate’s general assembly in May.
Members of DWR demonstrated on the steps of the Syndicate and distributed an open letter addressed to Syndicate head Dr Hamdy El-Sayyed in which they criticize the failure of the Syndicate to fight for a minimum wage, in violation of resolutions voted on by general assemblies held in Tanta and Beni Suef last May.
“The decision to call for a minimum wage and a decision not to step down from this demand has repeatedly been voted on in general assemblies, Dr Mona Mina told the press.
DWR have led a long-running campaign for a LE 1,000 minimum wage for doctors employed by the Ministry of Health.
In February the Syndicate’s general assembly voted to hold a two-hour strike in March. While the Syndicate’s board initially endorsed this decision, it changed its stance after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif stated during a radio interview that strikes in hospitals are illegal.
The unilateral decision taken by the Syndicate board to “postpone the strike pending a review of its legality put DWR at loggerheads with the Syndicate, and prompted the launch of a week-long sit-in in the Syndicate, in March, to object the decision.
During Syndicate general assemblies held in Tanta and Beni Suef in May, doctors again voted to pursue their campaign for a LE 1,000 minimum wage.
In July Ministerial decree 318 was passed. The decree awarded doctors pay rises in the form of a “doctor’s incentive payment which ranged between 30 percent and 400 percent of the doctor’s basic wage.
Article 3 of the decree provides that “the provision of these incentive payments is linked to the availability of finances.
The decree was roundly rejected by DWR who criticized its failure to put in place clear criteria governing the payment of the incentive.
DWR also criticized the vast differences in the percentage increases allocated to specialists compared with that promised to resident doctors.
“Despite the consensus of doctors during general assembly meetings on the slogan, ‘no stepping-down from the minimum wage,’ the Ministry of Health is determined to award pay rises in the form of bonuses, DWR’s open letter reads.
Mina criticized the Syndicate’s abdication of doctors’ demand for a minimum wage.
“The duty of the Syndicate board is to implement general assembly decisions. The general assembly has not renounced its calls for a minimum wage and is not satisfied with [pay increases in the form of] incentive payments. This is not a real solution to the crisis.
Doctors complain that the payment of incentives is not guaranteed, and that individual hospitals have interpreted decree 318 differently.
“Each hospital administration interprets the decree as it wishes, Dr Nagah Hussein told the press.
“One administration, for example, has stated that doctors who have private clinics are not entitled to the 30 percent bonus for specialist doctors. However, article 3 of the decree provides that “expenditure of the bonuses laid down in this decree are unaffected by the receipt of other payments or bonuses.
“We shouldn’t have to chase the implementation of the very basic benefits we have won. We want a clear and binding decree obliging every district to implement this decree, Hussein continued.
DWR also handed out a description of what payments doctors have actually received since the decree was passed in July.
They say that amongst doctors employed in health insurance hospitals, only the interning doctors have received a pay increase, and only for the month of September. DWR questions whether they will receive back-pay for the two months preceding September.
Furthermore, an administrative decree has excluded specialists from the incentive payment scheme altogether.
Within psychiatric hospitals payments have been received in Khanka and Helwan hospitals, while doctors at Abbaseyya hospital are still waiting for the paycheck to be cashed within the next few days.
As for visiting interns employed in psychiatric hospitals, DWR says that the situation differs from one hospital to the next – those employed in Khanka have received the incentive payment, while their colleagues in Helwan have not “on the pretext that they are still students.
DWR’s open letter is also critical of the fact that doctors based in certain medical facilities are not entitled to the incentive payments.
“Doctors in teaching hospitals, public health venues and specialized medical centers do not receive the incentive payment on the pretext that these sectors have an independent budget, the letter reads.
“We don’t understand what sin doctors working in these sectors have committed.
DWR is demanding to convene a follow-up general assembly to review the progress of the campaign for a minimum wage, as was agreed upon in May.
DWR members are also calling on the Doctors’ Syndicate to “condemn the spurious inconsistency between the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance, who must be held responsible for the deterioration of the health sector which is reflected in the state of people’s health, and the state of hospitals and those who provide health services.
DWR accuses the health ministry of seeking to circumvent doctors’ demands for a minimum wage.
“We believe that with these incentive payments, the Ministry of Health has led us into a labyrinth, whose primary aim is to make us forget about our demand for a minimum wage which will ensure stability and a decent income for doctors.
“In this labyrinth we will continue to chase payment regulations which vary from sector to sector, district to district and indeed from hospital to hospital, says the group.