CAIRO: The Doctors’ Syndicate’s emergency general assembly voted Sunday to organize a general strike on May 10 and an open strike starting May 17 until their demands are met.
A dispute between members and the syndicate’s board over the mechanism of voting on the open strike resulted in physical clashes between members on stage.
The syndicate board decided to organize a paper voting process rather than a show of hands but members refused, attacking board members including Essam El-Erian, also a prominent Muslim Brotherhood member.
El-Erian said that an open strike is a critical decision that may hinder a complete sector; therefore, the vote must be accurate. Members refused and said there was no need for paper voting.
Doctors are demanding the resignation of Minister of Health Ashraf Hatem, adequate security at hospitals, setting a minimum and maximum wage and increasing the health budget to 15 percent from the current 4.5 percent.
"We aren’t organizing a strike to increase our wages, our demands aim at enhancing the health care system in Egypt for the sake of society," said El-Erian.
Doctors plan to head to their workplace, sign in for attendance and then protest in front of hospitals. The strike doesn’t include doctors at emergency rooms, receptions, critical cases and emergency operations.
Doctors who do not participate in the strike will be transferred to a disciplinary council. Supporters of the strike suggested that those not participating take a day off.
"This will be the first strike after the revolution, we want it to be a civilized one and set a model," El-Erian said.
A supreme committee was formed to coordinate and supervise the strike.
Doctors approved the decisions of the previous general assembly on March 25 and set a date for new elections next October to choose a new syndicate board.
They are calling for a timetable to achieve their demands including changing doctors wages to the first category by a ministerial decree before the new budget is approved.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf met with a delegation from the syndicate on April 18 and agreed to meet their demands, appointing a special consultant on doctors’ affairs.
He asked doctors to participate in a meeting with ministers of finance, social solidarity and manpower this week to discuss the new wages system.
Members criticized the syndicate’s board for not holding the general assembly meeting in a bigger hall, which lead to disorder and poor organization.