Medical professions to start partial open strike Saturday

All doctors, pharmacists and dentists working in government hospitals will start striking on March 8 until their demands for better wages and a higher sector budget are met.

The open strike was announced by the committee for the joint strike of doctors, pharmacists and dentists today.

Emergency services will not be effected by the strike, according to the statement.

Strikes and protests have been ongoing in the medical sector since the start of January, as the medical syndicates carry out joint actions for the first time. The strike committee works under the umbrella of the three syndicates.

The statement also explained that state-affiliated clinics, which offer free non-urgent medical services, will operate only on Mondays and Thursdays during the strike.

The statement warned that any administrative employees in the sectors who threaten strikers with punitive measures will be subject to a disciplinary council in their syndicate and may face expulsion.

The strike committee has also asked the Doctors Syndicate’s disciplinary committee to suspend the membership of and fine any doctor breaking the strike, and expel them if the offense is repeated.

Doctors and pharmacists staged a one-day joint strike on 26 February with the same demands. They threatened an open strike on March 8 as an escalation if the demands were not met by then. The committee said there was an 87 percent participation rate in the February 26 strike.

Speaking in a press conference for all striking sectors earlier this week, doctors’ strike committee member Mohamed Shafiq said the doctors’ battle had started with demands for reform and financial rights but now had them defending their lives, as five doctors died of a respiratory infection in the past two months due to inadequate safety measures for doctors on the job.

Shafiq said the international standard for health is 15 percent of the national budget, but in Egypt it remains at 4 percent. He added that a large portion of this already small budget is squandered due to corruption.

He also said the health service provided to patients in government hospitals is deteriorating. While Egypt’s population increased from 60 million to 80 million from 1998 to 2011, he said, the number of beds in public hospitals decreased 40 percent in the same period. This has created a widening gap between citizens’ needs and the capacities of public hospitals.

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