CAIRO: Doctors suspended their sit-in at the Doctors’ Syndicate on Thursday after receiving a pledge that they would be allowed to leave their placements before March 10, 2009.
The protestors form part of a group of 119 doctors currently serving the obligatory placement stage of their medical training in North Sinai. They say that they are being unfairly prevented from taking up medical residencies despite completing the placement stage last year.
Medical residencies must be taken up within six months, and doctors fear that they may lose them if they are not allowed to leave their placements.
Requests that the group of doctors be allowed to leave North Sinai now were, however, met with claims from Ministry of Health officials that medical facilities in the area are understaffed every year.
On Wednesday they had met with Hesham Shiha, first deputy at the Ministry of Health, who promised them that their medical residencies would remain valid for another six months but did not specify when they would be allowed to leave North Sinai, but the group rejected this.
On Thursday a meeting was held with Dr Ahmed Imam, secretary general of the Doctors’ Syndicate.
Negotiations concluded with a pledge that doctors would all be allowed to leave their placements between February 28, 2009 and March 10, 2009.
The doctors say in a statement released after the meeting that while they have suspended the sit-in, they will resume it on February 10, 2009 if they do not receive the pledge in the form of an official document.
Daily News Egypt contacted Dr Tareq Suleiman El-Mahalawy, a member of the North Sinai medical administration to comment on the sit-in and on why the doctors were being prevented from ending their placements.
After initially denying that the sit-in was even taking place, he said that he was “not responsible for the problem.
“Ask the doctors about patriotism, and doing their duty. Ask them who takes precedence; them or the people of Gaza? El-Mahalawy said, a reference to the fact that the North Sinai governorate encompasses Rafah, which has been receiving Palestinians injured during the Israeli attack on Gaza.
When asked why some of the thousands of new doctors who graduate every year could not replace the doctors who have officially completed their placements, El-Mahalawy went on to say that the doctors would in fact be allowed to leave “as soon as the new doctors arrive .
Doctors rebutted El-Mahalawy s statements.
Dr Ragy Bebers suggested that the statements were intended to “turn public opinion against the doctors and had no basis in fact.
Peter Nagy Kamel, another doctor involved in the sit-in, agreed.
“We only work in basic health care clinics and have nothing to do with the events in Gaza because we re not posted to hospitals in El-Arish [located in North Sinai], Kamel told Daily News Egypt.
“If El-Mahalawy isn t responsible, who is? We want to talk to someone in North Sinai from the Ministry of Health who is responsible, Kamel said.