1500 doctors protest for removal of minister, better pay

Approximately 1500 doctors from across Egypt protested Sunday in front of the cabinet building to call for the dismissal of Health Minister Amr Helmy.

The protesters also called to increase the ministry’s budget and purge it of corrupt leaders, secure hospitals and set a minimum wage.

They raised banners calling for a fairer salary system and carried a mock coffin on which was written, “May the Egyptian Health Ministry rest in peace.”

Engy Abdallah, a doctor and one of the coordinators of the strike, said the number of hospitals participating in the strike has risen to 85, with two more hospitals in Tanta and Assiut expected to join on Monday.

Abdallah called for the dismissal of Hesham Shiha and Abdel Hamid Abaza, both assistant health ministers, for speaking out against the protesting doctors.

“We will call for an emergency general assembly meeting on 16 October at the first meeting of the new Doctors Syndicate council, in order to spread the strike to all hospitals,” she said.

Abdallah said that striking doctors will meet with coordinators from other governorates to discuss future steps, adding that striking doctors will hold a press conference this week.

The Doctors Syndicate will hold its first elections since the 1990s in October.

The revolution briefly changed the power dynamic in the Doctors Syndicate, as Muslim Brotherhood- and regime-affiliated syndicate leaders were pushed aside in favor of reformers. But Health Ministry policy toward doctors and their demands has changed little under the leadership of new Health Minister Amr Helmy who, before he was appointed, stood with doctors in their protests.

Ahmed Atef, a coordinator for the strike, said the doctors are demanding to overhaul Egypt’s dysfunctional health system.

The fact that the government has satisfied the demands of some workers, such as teachers, while it continues to ignore doctors has caused an escalation in the protests, he said.

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