Dozens of doctors gathered in front of the Doctors’ Syndicate headquarters in downtown Cairo on Saturday to protest against repeated assaults, most of which have recently been carried out by police officers inside hospitals.
On Friday a doctor at Suez General Hospital sustained a concussion and other bone fractures after the family of a sick child assaulted him as he was leaving the hospital after finishing his shift.
This incident follows a string of other attacks against doctors, the most prominent of which took place at Al-Matariya public hospital where a police officer assaulted two doctors. The accused police officers remain free and have not been referred to trial. The assaulted doctors recently resumed their work following attempts to provide free health care in retribution for the government being inactive regarding the event.
Protesting doctors, who were joined by several syndicate board members, carried signs demanding the trial of the police officers who attacked the Al-Matariya doctors in order to preserve the dignity of doctors. Other signs demanded legislative protection for healthcare facilities, which also criminalise assaults against doctors.
The doctors said they plan to escalate their protests if none of their demands are met. A protest has already been scheduled for 19 March, for which the syndicate sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior informing them of the protest dates.
Thousands gathered in a general assembly held at the Doctors Syndicate in mid-February and voted on a set of decisions, including the referral of police officers to trial and providing free healthcare for further examinations and medications, with the exception of the fee for the mandatory ticket paid for initial check-ups.
The link between assaults on doctors and activating the constitutional free healthcare decision is due to patients’ frustration, according to syndicate board member Ehab Al-Taher.
“When patients find inadequate services, yet they are required to pay large amounts of money, their frustration is directed at doctors, rather than those responsible for the hospital’s budget,” he previously told Daily News Egypt.
Meanwhile, a controversial decision was reported via state-media on Saturday stating that the Ministry of Finance retained money allocated for the renovation of hospitals, which raised concerns. However, Ministry of Health spokesman Khaled Megahed denied the reported claims, in a phone interview with Daily News Egypt.
The health sector budget remains insufficient amid ongoing challenges. Only 1.5% of the state’s GNP, amounting to EGP 2.7bn, was allocated towards enhancing healthcare during the fiscal year of 2014-2015, leaving only 33 beds available in Cairo’s hospitals for every 10,000 people.