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Hospitals under Attack

Multiple attacks a few hours apart lead to a doctors’ strike and the closing of emergency rooms

A nurse treats a tourist at an Egyptian hospital (AFP/file photo)
A nurse treats a tourist at an Egyptian hospital (AFP/file photo)

In less than 48 hours, Mansura International Hospital has witnessed multiple attacks on its emergency rooms, continuing a series of attacks on hospitals around Egypt that have been ongoing for almost a month.

On Wednesday, five security personnel were severely injured when around 50 people tried to break into the hospital with their relative, who was injured in a car accident in Mahalla. They fired shotguns and attacked the hospital staff.

A worker, Ahmed Atef, suffered head injuries before going into a coma.

The military officers who were assigned to secure the hospital according to President Morsy’s orders were attacked and injured by the family.

In a separate incident, three armed brothers broke into the same hospital on Thursday to assault a patient who was receiving treatment there. Amr Wasfy and his brothers Sayed and Sameh from el Magzar area in Mansura broke the glass of the emergency gates and stormed into the hospital with knives, causing the patients and staff to panic. Some of suffered a sharp drop of blood circulation.

According to Daily News Egypt reports, they were pursuing Reda el Awady, a patient in the hospital, for financial reasons. They followed him into the hospital and caused him severe bodily lacerations.

The doctors decided to go on a strike on July 26th, decrying the absence of security even in the presence of military personnel; they closed the doors to ambulances and patients.

On the same day, several other hospitals were attacked in multiple areas of the Dakahleya governorate. Doctors at El-Matareya Hospital went on a strike after they were attacked by thugs armed with shotguns. It was widely reported in the media that doctors called for help from the police station for more than three hours.

At Belqas Central Hospital, the staff went on a strike, closing the emergency rooms completely after the riots and the assaults they witnessed.

“These incidents have become rather a daily routine in Egypt’s hospitals,” said Mona Mina, MD, a member of the syndicate’s board and the general coordinator for the physicians rights movement Doctors without Rights told the Daily News Egypt. “Doctors now call each other to check if they are alive.”

“What’s happening now is a symptom of a chronic disease which is the deterioration of the Health sector in Egypt,” she said.

Mina explained that after numerous protests, the President ordered the military police to secure 100 hospitals, and up until now they still haven’t secured even a third of that number.

It’s not always thugs and outlaws who attack hospitals. Sometimes it’s just Egyptian citizens who are desperate to get acceptable health services.

“I think of it as a patients’ revolution against the failing health system and poor services,” Mina said.
She added that patients can tour hospitals looking for an empty intensive care unit without finding one and so they start blaming the doctors and may even assault them.

“A doctor’s salary is less than half of what a house maid gets, and he’s subject to epidemics, maltreatment from the administration and from the patients’ families,” she said.

Mina explained that doctors are sometimes insulted, attacked with knives, bottles, shotguns and subject to physical violence by the patients’ families who are desperate for good service.

Mohamed Rakha, a doctor in Abasseya Mental Hospital said that a part of the problem is doctors’ lack of communication skills.

“Doctors are not trained to talk to patients and their families while good communication can help contain crises,” said Rakha.

He said that the problem was caused poor facilities, loose security, poor communication and people’s distress.

El-Sahel Educational Hospital is the largest one in Shubra, one of the most populous areas in Cairo, and has been closed for almost a week now.

“The only response we get from officials is threats to doctors who go on a strike. This is the most disgraceful way to handle the crisis” Mina said.

Currently, the health sector’s share of the state budget is about 4% while in most countries it’s about 10 to 15%.

Egyptian doctors have protested and have called on officials to raise the budget, raise salaries, and secure hospitals.

“We don’t want everything to be solved overnight, but at least let’s direct finances towards the emergency departments,” said Mina.”We’re talking people’s lives here.”

“The worst is yet to come. If the community doesn’t pressure officials who are ignoring such an issue, then we can only expect disasters.”


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