CAIRO: Doctors who say they are being unfairly treated by the Ministry of Health are threatening to hold a sit-in at the Doctors Syndicate.
The group of 119 doctors who are currently serving the obligatory placement stage of their medical training in North Sinai, say that they are being prevented from taking up medical residencies despite having finished the placement stage.
“My year graduated in December 2005 and we began our placement in North Sinai in March 2007, Ragy Bebers told Daily News Egypt.
“Our year graduated the same year as Dr Hatem El-Gabaly accepted the post of Minister of Health, and it seems that they decided complaints about placements would not be accepted and that everything would go by the book that year, with the result that no complaints about transfers were accepted.
“The strange thing is that the year after, roughly 90 doctors, including us, were sent to North Sinai. Only about 37 doctors actually came. The complaints of the other doctors were accepted and they were reassigned to their areas of residence.
According to Bebers, requests that the group of doctors be allowed to leave North Sinai now that they have finished their placements are met with claims that medical facilities in the area are understaffed.
“They sent the group of doctors which were supposed to replace us to other places – this is their fault, not ours, Bebers said.
Bebers fears that he and the other doctors may lose medical residencies because of the problem.
“We applied for medical residencies in May 2008 and the results came out in August of the same year – that is, six months ago exactly. I got the medical residency in Nephrology which I wanted. The problem is that doctors must accept a medical residency within six months or else it is cancelled, Bebers explained.
The last day on which the doctors can take up their medical residency is on Feb. 4, 2009.
“The North Sinai administration has promised us that it will write letters allowing our medical residencies to be postponed – as is the case with doctors who are called up for military service: they obtain permission to start the medical residency after they finish military service.
“But why are they keeping me behind my peers? I m not in the army, I didn t fall behind a year in my studies, I haven t taken unpaid leave…Even if they don t make me lose my medical residency they re putting me a year behind my peers for absolutely no reason.
Doctors say that they went to the Ministry of Health two weeks ago and received a written promise from Ahmed El-Sayyed Shehata, head of the General Hospitals Administration, that they will be allowed to leave when the new batch of doctors arrives at the end of this month.
Doctors expressed skepticism nonetheless about the pledge, saying that the letter does not explicitly state that of this new batch of doctors, some will be assigned to North Sinai.
This, doctors say, comes after a promise made last year by the ministry of healthy that the problem would be solved before the end of 2008.
“When we came to the syndicate three or four months ago [syndicate head] Dr Hamdy El-Sayyed said yes I know that you ve been wronged, and that doctors are not placed in a fair way and that everyone wants to stay near their mom and dad.’ He told us about a nearby medical center which is staffed with 90 doctors despite the fact that it only requires 10, Bebers explained.
“But I asked him why doctors who are on placement in overcrowded medical centers are not transferred to serve the placement in areas which need doctors – they have to serve the placement, so why not send them rather than keeping us on placement when we ve done the obligatory one and a half years and have a medical residency waiting for us?
“Dr El-Sayyed promised that he d talk to the minister, but absolutely nothing has happened. We ve been in this situation now for three months and refuse to go back to North Sinai.
Dr Mona Mina, an activist with the Doctors Without Rights group says that this problem occurs every year.
“Connections are always involved in getting placements for the better areas where the work and conditions are easier, and in fact exactly the same problem is happening in Sohag, Marsa Matrouh and Aswan, Mina explained.
“But these doctors have completed the placement stage – they ve paid their tax – and should be allowed to continue their medical careers.
“The administration claims that if these doctors left the place would collapse because there s no one to replace them – yet some 12,000 new doctors graduate every year.