CAIRO: Security bodies again banned a protest by doctors outside the People s Assembly on Tuesday – the third protest to be stopped in a month.
“Rather than responding to demands which are clearly fair – especially as people s economic hardship increases – it chooses to crack down on opposition voices. Their preferred response is to ban protests rather than study the reasons which drive people to protest, Mona Mina, spokeswoman for the Doctors Without Rights (DWR) group, told Daily News Egypt.
The Doctors Syndicate moved the protest to the steps of its downtown Cairo headquarters, where around 30 doctors held up placards reading, “We demand that doctors incentive payments be paid without delay and “There is no alternative to the minimum wage.
Syndicate member Said Sayyed told Daily News Egypt that the syndicate had been informed on Monday night that doctors would not be allowed to protest outside the PA. He said that no reason was given.
Protesting psychiatrist Mohamed Rakha questioned the logic of banning protests.
“I don t understand why security bodies ban them; there aren t a large number of doctors who take part, doctors from governorates outside Cairo don t attend, protests are peaceful – and in fact a little too orderly – so why ban them outside the People s Assembly? Rakha asked.
He warned that a ban on protests will adversely affect health services.
“When they ban protests we ll only have two choices before us: either we strike – doctors will stay at home rather than involving themselves in problems with security bodies – or, as is currently happening, all the best doctors will leave Egypt.
Syndicate head Hamdy El-Sayyed told reporters that the gathering of people holding up placards and chanting behind him is not considered protesting.
“As I have repeated several times, this isn t a protest because we re currently in negotiations with the government. I call it a reminder. These people are reminding the government that they have rights which have to be implemented, El-Sayyed said.
El-Sayyed was also quick to correct a reporter who asked him about doctors campaign for a “minimum wage.
“We re not talking about a minimum wage. We re talking about economic reform via a bundle of incentive payments, whose payment is not linked to the availability . of funds.
The syndicate head went on to describe the progress of pay pledges announced as part of a three-year governmental reform package announced last year.
“We have agreed with the government that doctors pay and conditions have to be reformed over the course of three years. The first year has nearly come to an end, and there are still some junior doctors whose problems haven t been resolved, El-Sayyed explained.
“A larger number of doctors – 50 or 60 percent – will be covered by the second stage. There are rumors that the government won t pay out for this second stage because of economic conditions. We say that while difficult economic conditions do exist, doctors also suffer from extremely poor economic conditions, and we are demanding that doctors form part of the economic reform being undertaken by the state.
“The third year of the reform package encompasses others working in the health service such as nurses, chemists and dentists. The agreement with the government was on this program.
“The government says that there are deficiencies in the budget and insufficient funds. And we might be able to accept that rather than being paid over the course of two years, the [remaining stages of the reform program] take place over the course of three. What we will not accept however is the government forgetting about us.
El-Sayyed said that the state budget – and health sector spending – has still not been discussed by the PA, adding “we still have hope especially since the Prime Minister [Ahmed Nazif] understands our problems very well.
DWR have long been critical of both the eventual objectives sought by the syndicate, and the means by which they seek to realize them.
While DWR have long called for a fixed minimum wage, the syndicate is calling for wage improvement via incentive-payments.
In addition, the syndicate s board took a unilateral decision to “postpone a two-hour symbolic strike voted for during a general assembly, citing possible legal repercussions.
Mina rejected El-Sayyed s description of the protest as a “reminder and said that the course currently being followed by the syndicate is insufficient to realize doctors demands.
“Why isn t it a protest? Don t the conditions doctors are suffering deserve a protest? Protests must escalate rather than be toned down: we re past the stage where we need to tell society that doctors have a problem. Serious protests need to be held which will force the government to respond – this isn t currently happening.