CAIRO: Doctors’ Syndicate head Hamdy El-Sayyed defended the Syndicate’s board yesterday during a charged general assembly meeting during which some doctors accused the board of being “unable or unwilling to stand up for doctors’ rights.
Mona Mina, from the Doctors Without Rights (DWR) group, called for a delegation of doctors to present a petition of demands signed by some 1,200 doctors to the minister of health on April 19. She called for a one-hour protest in hospitals across Egypt on May 3 if demands for improved pay and conditions were not met.
“It’s time to stop making demands, we have to escalate, Mina told the general assembly.
Doctors have been involved in a long fight for better pay. While DWR advocates strike action as part of their campaign for a minimum wage of LE 1,000, the Syndicate has accepted government pay rises in the form of incentive payments and allowances which doctors say are either not paid regularly, or not paid at all.
In 2008 the Syndicate cancelled strike action voted for overwhelmingly by some 2,000 doctors at the annual general assembly meeting. El-Sayyed said at the time that the legality of the decision has to be “studied . He pre-empted calls for a strike yesterday by telling doctors that a strike would be “extremely difficult and advised them to think “very carefully before voting in favor of it.
DWR member Mohamed Hassanein rejected El-Sayyed’s advice, demanding that the Syndicate leave doctors to decide for themselves whether they are prepared to strike and run the risk of being arrested as a result.
The general assembly became extremely heated after El-Sayyed responded to an intervention by one doctor by telling him to “shut up , language which was rejected by some doctors. In turn, attacks on the Syndicate head were rejected by one doctor who said that doctors “are not aware of [El-Sayyed’s] past, and the efforts he has expended for the Syndicate .
Criticism of the Syndicate centered on the fact that the same board has been sitting for 18 years.
“We don’t work for the regime and we’re the first to demand change. I’m the defender of the Syndicate; if I left tomorrow the government would [control it], El-Sayyed said.
“We’ve submitted papers calling for elections 10 times, El-Sayyed continued.
Discussion during the general assembly also focused on a draft law on doctors’ training prepared by the Syndicate, which DWR said doctors were not consulted on beforehand and which will impose heavy financial burdens on doctors.
Voting on the decisions taken during the general assembly was undertaken in a state of some chaos, and doctors left unsure of exactly what had been approved.
At the time of going to press members of DWR were threatening that they would not leave the Syndicate building until they got a copy of the final decision detailing the recommendations adopted during the seminar.
DWR members waited for 10 minutes for a hard copy of the final decision, only to be told by an administrative employee as he left that “it will be put on the Syndicate website in 10 minutes .
An hour later, the decision was still not online. DWR member Rashwan Mohamed Rashwan expressed fears that the Syndicate board was planning to “remove some of the recommendations adopted during the general assembly, like they did last year .