The coronavirus earthquake has strongly hit the whole world, where its ghost still haunts everyone on a daily basis.
The COVID-19 has had many effects on the world so far, including exposure of the flaws and weaknesses of the health systems of some countries, where many countries have failed to manage the crisis in accordance with international rules and standards.
In view of the numerous negative results that resulted from the way of handling the coronavirus crisis in Egypt so far, a question arises about how far the Egyptian health system is efficient, and whether there is a highly-competent and trained team specialized in fighting epidemics and possessing adequate knowledge, experience, ability and discipline that would enable it to manage and overcome such crisis.
Undoubtedly, Egypt is full of competencies and experiences, including professors of community medicine and public health in various medical schools in Egypt, in addition to the epidemiological surveillance team at the Egyptian Ministry of Health – a wonderful team with respect to competence and experience – that is capable of facing the coronavirus pandemic in Egypt.
But a question arises here: Does the currently prevailing atmosphere in Egypt help making advantage of these competencies?
In fact, it is extremely doubtful.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the extent of injustice that health workers in Egypt have been subjected to for decades, including the authorities’ recklessness towards their lives and failure to provide them even with the required personal protective equipment (PPE) to preserve their lives and health.
More than 100 fellow doctors have died so far, but it seems that officials have not yet realized the scale of this tragedy.
Unfortunately, the lack of appreciation of doctors and negligence of their rights has been a dominant feature in Egypt for decades, where the situation of doctors has deteriorated.
Also, the events of June 30 thwarted the attempt by the January Revolution Parliament to enact a law that would have restored some of their rights by stating a special financial cadre for them. Being even deprived of equality with other service sectors, such as the police, the army and the judiciary, many Egyptian doctors believed that immigration was the solution to ensure a better life abroad. Accordingly, the need for doctors and health workers has become acute, especially with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Amid this difficult situation, calls have re-emerged to pay attention to doctors and health workers. Although Egyptian officials did not apparently like the matter, yet they only uttered expressions of soothing and appeasing, such as “Greetings, appreciation and pride for health workers”, only for allowing the crisis to pass and then the situation would return to what it had been before, of negligence. The authorities have ignored the demands for passing legislation in favor of doctors and health sector workers (and implement it on the ground) that would guarantee their fair rights, protect them, restore their consideration.
The strange thing is that the Egyptian government that has been unable to provide masks and personal protective equipment for its own doctors and health workers, had donated them to foreign countries, notably to Italy, as if these masks were to hide the face of the truth in the case of Giulio Regeni, the Italian student that was killed at the hands of the Egyptian security services.
In fact, the rights of doctors have been squandered and lost between the Ministry of Health and the Egyptian Medical Syndicate.
With regard to the Ministry of Health, the minister has turned into a secretary who only carries out the instructions given to her, without caring about the appeals for help made by doctors, or even their declared resignations. She did not even move to provide an ICU bed for a doctor who had contracted COVID-19 while doing his job of treating patients, at a time when she was preoccupied with securing an ICU bed for an actress in the same conditions, which she actually did. This negligence requires holding the minister accountable before law and before the Parliament, but it is impossible for this to happen under the post-2013 regime.
As for the Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS), despite the fact that the Syndicate has a long history in defending rights, in light of the honorable patriotic struggle of hundreds of national figures from all Intellectual trends, we find that the EMS has remained completely silent, contenting itself with only issuing statements of obituaries for doctors and mourning them on its website, without bothering to defend the doctors’ legitimate rights.
Some may also wonder where the EMS board (who came after 2013) that used to issue strong statements about the doctors’ rights during the days of freedom in the wake of the glorious January Revolution, and what they are doing now?
Have they turned into cute doves, saying to the regime: please, allow me to oppose your excellency, Pasha?
Isn’t this performance of the EMS weak, meager and even droopy, compared to its golden age under the administration of doctors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to many observers?
However, some believe that the current EMS board has done its utmost possible effort in light of the narrow margin permitted by tyrant authorities, amid dominance of the security services in Egypt over unionist action and even for all civil society institutions.
The rights and demands of Egyptian doctors have been lost between the Ministry of Health and the Egyptian Medical Syndicate.
From a legal point of view, we believe that the rights of doctors are clearly stated by Law No. 45 of 1969 that regulates the work of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, stipulating in Article 2:
– Recruiting the energies of doctors to perform their profession for solving the people’s health problems,
– Participating with all categories of health service workers to coordinate efforts for achieving proficiency, increasing their production in health services, working to raise the preventive and therapeutic standards of the medical profession and develop it to achieve the greatest care for the people, and participate in drawing the medical education, curriculum development, and technical training for doctors, both in Cairo and governorates through sub-unions …
– Participating in drawing up the policy of providing medicines and medical supplies, encouraging the national pharmaceutical industry, helping to create job opportunities for every doctor, organizing the relationship among doctors, developing the spirit of cooperation and strengthening ties between them, facilitating therapeutic and social services for doctors and their families, and working to create material and moral conditions to safeguard their interests and raise their standards.
Also, the Egyptian Constitution 2014 stipulates in Article 18 that:
Every citizen has the right to health and to comprehensive health care which complies with quality standards. The State shall maintain and support public health facilities that provide health services to the people and shall enhance their efficiency and their equitable geographical distribution. The State shall allocate a percentage of government spending to health equivalent to at least 3% of Gross National Product (GNP), which shall gradually increase to comply with international standards… The State shall improve the conditions of physicians, nursing staff, and health sector workers…
As for the Ministry of Health, it confirms all these rights through dozens of successive ministerial decrees.
However, it seems that there is no real political will to reform these conditions and to restore consideration for the medical professions. On the contrary, the situation has recently worsened by threatening to arrest, torture, imprison, and displace doctors.
In fact, the regime that has imposed the constitution is never committed to it, and those who took over the EMS administration do not fulfill their duty as it should be, where the rights of doctors have been lost between the tyranny of the regime and the weakness of the EMS.
The time has come to correct the conditions of doctors and health workers, otherwise attempts to convince them of dedication to work and sacrificing their souls in favor of the nation will be almost impossible or imaginative.
Doctors must pressure their syndicate to provide an appropriate work environment and adequate personal protection equipment to preserve their lives, and to improve their scientific and technical standard and exchange experiences with countries that have achieved success in facing this pandemic. The EMS should ensure provision of appropriate treatment for doctors and their families, protect them from regime threats, work to improve their financial conditions and consider everyone who loses his life on the job, especially during the battle of COVID-19, as a martyr and grant him and his family all appropriate material and moral rights, including naming hospitals, medical facilities, streets and squares after their names.
The Egyptian Medical Syndicate must immediately respond to doctors’ demands and courageously do their job; or resign, before they are dismissed.
Also, the regime has an opportunity to show some wisdom, improve its image externally and internally, and respond to the fair demands of health workers in order to achieve the interest of citizens and their right to appropriate health services in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
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