CAIRO: Protest group Doctors Without Rights (DWR) continued their long-running campaign for better wages for Ministry of Health-employed doctors on Monday with a protest outside the Doctors’ Syndicate.
DWR’s Mona Mina explained that the protest sought to draw attention to both doctors’ demands for a minimum wage, and their concerns surrounding a new draft law regarding doctors’ training.
In 2008 Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced that doctors’ wages would be increased in the form of a two-stage incentive payment scheme.
While Health Minister Hatem El-Gabaly said in 2008 that under the scheme the average salary would increase by LE 700 per month, doctors say that the incentive payments are paid irregularly, or not at all.
“The incentive payments have proved to be a mirage. They are paid sometimes two months or four months late. In the Damanhour teaching hospital they are six months overdue, Mina told reporters.
“While the Syndicate is calling for the payment of the 2nd stage of the incentive payments we are calling for payment of the first stage, Mina continued.
Doctors are asking for a fixed wage increase amounting to 300 percent of their basic wage for all ministry of health doctors.
Mina said that it was revealed on the day of the protest that a draft law, the Continuous Professional Development Law, was presented to parliament by the Ministry of Health. Doctors were not consulted on the law, Mina explained.
“How could a law regulating the profession of 60,000 doctors be issued without our being consulted on it? We’re demanding that this law be discussed with doctors transparently, and that doctors should not have to bear the costs of further education. These costs must be paid by the employer, Mina said.
Mina described it as “shameful that doctors be made to pay the costs of further education.
DWR member Rashwan Mohamed Rashwan said that a copy of the draft law has not yet reached him, but that he had “been informed about some of its content.
According to Rashwan, doctors will be expected to fulfill further training requirements known as “credit hours as a prerequisite to license renewals.
Mohamed Hassan Khalil, a member of the Committee for the Defense of the Right to Health, explained that when doctors are required to attend conferences in order to obtain these credit hours, the cost of transport and accommodation should be borne by employers.
“When the government wishes to widen the scope of professional development it shouldn’t do so in a way which infringes doctors’ rights, Khalil said.
DWR has frequently criticized the Doctors’ Syndicate for not fully backing its demands, including in 2008 the Syndicate’s decision to call off a symbolic strike voted for by the Syndicate’s general assembly.
Syndicate treasurer Essam El-Erian briefly joined the protest on Monday.
“We are here to express solidarity with our colleagues because a minimum wage is a legitimate demand of all doctors – the Prime Minister’s promises of improved salaries must at least see the light of day, El-Erian told Daily News Egypt.
“The government abandoned us last year. We agreed to solutions involving several phases. But the government is unfortunately forcing doctors to not have confidence in it through its action. In the coming budget, we need the government to dedicate at least LE 1.5 billion to fulfill its promises.
Rashwan, however, said that the Syndicate is not doing enough.
“We don’t just want the Syndicate to stand with us during protests. To take a real stand it must widen participation through regional Syndicates and pressure the government – which it is not doing.