CAIRO: Exactly a year after it “postponed plans to hold a symbolic two-day strike in protest at doctors’ low salaries, the Doctors’ Syndicate is again backing a series of protests after government-promised incentives weren’t paid to all doctors.
The decision to hold a protest outside the Ministry of Finance Tuesday, and to close private clinics on Thursday, April 9, forms part of 18 recommendations issued after the syndicate’s general assembly that was held on Friday.
Rights group Doctors Without Rights (DWR) label the recommendations “just more diffusing of doctors’ anger.
“The protest which the syndicate has called for will be held in front of the finance ministry against the fact that the second stage of the allowance payments hasn’t been paid – as if doctors’ demands merely boil down to the payment of the second stage, a DWR statement reads.
“Steering the protest in this direction of course removes any mention of the minimum wage from doctors’ demands, which has been a fundamental demand in every syndicate general assembly held since Feb. 1, 2008, the statement continues.
Last year, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif passed ministerial decree 318 which granted doctors the doctors’ incentive payment. Nazif recently announced that as a result of the global economic crisis spending of the second stage of the incentive payment, due to begin in 2009, will be postponed to 2011.
Doctors have complained of problems in the granting of the payment stipulated by decree 318.
DWR have pursued their campaign for a basic minimum wage for over a year.
While this campaign was initially backed by the Doctors’ Syndicate, the syndicate’s board withdrew support after doctors voted for a two-hour symbolic strike during a general assembly held last year. Syndicate head Hamdy El-Sayyed dismissed DWR as unrepresentative of the majority of doctors.
The board unilaterally postponed the strike – saying that such action could not be taken until its legality had been established – prompting DWR to stage a one week sit-in in the syndicate’s Cairo building.
A case concerning the legality of strikes by doctors is currently being heard by the administrative court.
While Friday’s recommendations mention a “consolidation of the efforts of the syndicate head and syndicate board to realize doctors’ hopes for a minimum wage, the protest scheduled to be held today only calls for the “provision of the funding necessary to improve doctors’ wages according to the plan agreed on by the prime minister and minister of health last year.
DWR are also critical of the syndicate’s failure to include two proposals put forward by doctors from its final recommendations.
The first called on the syndicate to hold to account its members who work in hospital management and were involved in the “administrative exemplary punishment of numerous doctors.
DWR points out that the proposal was ignored, even though Essam El-Erian, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the syndicate’s secretary-general, has been the victim of arbitrary dismissal from a Ministry of Health hospital.
“It seems that the syndicate is determined not to stand up in any genuine way to the health ministry’s punishment of doctors whether this concerns wages or treatment, DWR’s statement reads.
The second recommendation was made by DWR and concerned a “day of anger during which protests and sit-ins would be held in hospitals throughout the country.
The group alleges that DWR spokeswoman Mona Mina was not allowed to present this idea as an alternative to strike action “on the pretext that there was not enough time, despite the fact that time was lost listening to a poem which lasted around a quarter of an hour.