Doctors staged a partial strike on Monday demanding legislation that would improve their working conditions and create reforms in the healthcare sector, in what marks their third strike for 2014.
One of their main demands is the passing of the draft Staff Law, which doctors have adamantly been pushing for and are scheduled to discuss in an extraordinary session of the General Assembly at the Doctors’ Syndicate next Friday.
As of time of publishing, the syndicate had not yet collected the strike’s participation rates across the nation. However, the secretary general of the Cairo sub-syndicate, Ehab El-Taher, said participation is evidently lower this time than last.
El-Taher said many doctors are feeling frustrated because they have participated in the previous strikes, without a government response.
Mohamed Rakha, a physician at Al-Abassiya Psychiatric Hospital, said things were normal where he works. Rakha believes that there might have not been enough campaigning ahead of the strike.
Minister of Health Maha Al-Rabat said one day ahead of the strike that a comprehensive plan was ready to ensure the continuation of the provision of healthcare services during the strike.
Typically, the strike affects all non-emergency medical services and outpatient clinics. However, the emergency department, emergency operations, kidney dialysis, intensive care units and incubators continue to run normally.
The strike is part of a decision by the Doctors’ Syndicate to hold two strikes a week in February, on Monday and Wednesday. The number would be raised to three times a week in March.
Doctors already staged partial strikes on 1 and 8 January, after negotiations between representatives of the syndicate and the ministries of Health and Finance failed to resolve the long standing issues.
Options for escalatory steps include collecting and submitting group resignations and resorting to an open-ended strike, instead of a one-day strike.
El-Taher said some young doctors feel that the government will only respond if doctors start a full strike. “That means locking hospital doors, and we reject this, of course,” he said.
A bulk of doctors’ incomes is made up of bonuses and incentives; however, doctors demand that pay raises increase their fixed salary, which the draft Staff Law would achieve if passed.
The draft Staff Law would organise financial, technical and administrative matters such as training, promotions and working hours for all professionals in the public healthcare sector.
Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi’s cabinet approved on 31 December a law that would raise doctors’ bonuses and incentives; however, it has been rejected by many doctors since it does not raise fixed salaries.
Rakha rejects merely raising incentives and considers it “dishonouring to all medical professions” since it disregards the draft Staff Law, which has been reached through coordination between unions of all medical professionals and relevant ministries and drafted after about 30 meetings. The draft was handed to the Shura Council in 2013, but the legislature did not survive to pass it.
Rakha said the doctors have been demanding this law for about 20 years, but it has taken on a serious form after the 2011 revolution. In 2012, doctors staged a partial strike which lasted longer than 80 days and ended with the stipulation that the bill would soon be passed.
He added that raising incentives alone does not take into account the administrative aspect of the draft Staff Law. Administrative matters organised by the draft law include training, promotions and working hours.
The strike includes hospitals and medical institutions that operate within the public healthcare sector.