The Doctors’ Syndicate will begin collecting mass resignations starting Tuesday as a form of escalation to the strike they began in January.
The Doctors’ Syndicate held a number of single-day partial strikes in 2014, demanding the passing of the draft Staff Law, reforms to Egypt’s crumbling healthcare system and pay raises. The doctors also began an open-ended strike on 8 March.
Syndicate treasurer Khaled Samir said that the resignations will include doctors from the Ministry of Health not just the members of the syndicate.
The campaign aims to collect 20,000 resignations to present to the Ministry of Health as a pressure tool.
Rapporteur of the Media Committee of the syndicate Hossam Kamal described the mass resignations as “terminating the doctors’ contract with the government”, adding that this is legitimate behaviour so long as the contract is “unfair”.
Samir said that the funds the syndicate receives are not enough to cover the number of doctors who are members within the syndicate. The cabinet provides EGP 150,000 while the syndicate has close to a quarter million members, a sum of money which Samir described as “inadequate”.
Kamal said that negotiations with the cabinet must be halted due to “insincerity” on the cabinet’s side.
“Though the health minister sympathises with our demands, his hands are tied,” Kamal said. “Meanwhile, the cabinet is stalling and the Doctors’ Strike Committee is giving the striking doctors false hope.”
Mohamed Shafiq, former member of the Doctors’ Strike Committee, said the doctors will continue escalating their strike until the draft Staff Law is ratified by the president.
The draft Staff Law would secure better working conditions for all healthcare professionals. It would also organise both administrative affairs like training, promotions and working hours as well as financial affairs for all healthcare professionals.
Representatives of the Doctors’ Strike Committee met on Saturday with Health Minister Adel Al-Adawi, and both parties agreed to a final draft of the Staff Law; the law was submitted to Ibrahim Mehleb’s cabinet. Representatives from the Ministry of Finance failed to attend the meeting.
Shafiq said the Ministry of Finance postponed its meeting with the Doctors’ Strike Committee for a week in order to consider the outcome of the syndicate’s General Assembly, due to be held on Friday.
Shafiq held members of the Alexandria Doctors’ Syndicate responsible for the delay of the meeting with the Ministry of Finance. The Alexandria syndicate members held a vote on Friday regarding the suspension of the strike, a move described by Shafiq as “treason to the strike”.
“The Alexandria Doctors’ Syndicate cannot reverse a decision taken by the General Syndicate,” Shafiq said, describing Friday’s vote as “illegal”. “Their move weakened the syndicate’s position in the negotiations.”
Last week, a group of doctors held talks with interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and Health Minister Adel Al-Adawi, after which the cabinet said in a statement that it demanded the temporary suspension of the strike in order to give the government the chance to study the demands and work on achieving them.
The doctors turned down the demand. Head of the committee coordinating the strike, Ahmed Shoosha, said at the time that the strike “cannot be suspended” until doctors begin to witness responses and concrete steps.
They also demand an increase in hospital security and rise in the state budget for health to international standards. Shoosha said international standards are 15% and in Egypt the budget is only 3%.
The last rounds of negotiations were held between the ministries of Health, Finance and the syndicate last December. However, the talks ended without resolving longstanding issues.
For years, doctors have been calling for reforms to Egypt’s healthcare system. They had previously resorted to an open-ended strike in 2012, one that lasted over 80 days. It ended with the understanding that the draft Staff Law would be passed. In 2013, the draft law was handed to the Shura Council, but the legislature was disbanded before passing the law.
On 6 February, interim President Adly Mansour ratified a different law, but it was rejected by the Doctors’ Syndicate. The syndicate said that it still stands by the draft Staff Law, which had been drafted after extensive talks were held between unions of all medical professionals and relevant ministries.