What are the demands of Egypt’s protesting doctors?

Thousands of doctors turned on Friday to express frustration with police brutality

Shounaz Meky - Special to Al Arabiya English
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A union of Egyptian doctors – that staged a rare public show of outrage over police abuses -- says it expects to garner more support over the coming days as it vowed to continue protests until demands are met.

In a gathering intended for a general assembly vote at their syndicate in Cairo, thousands of doctors turned on Friday to express frustration with police brutality following accusations that two doctors were beaten up by policemen in a Cairo hospital.

“It was time to put police abuses against Egyptians to an end,” said Dr. Khairy Abdel Dayem, member of the doctors' union, officially known as the Egyptian Medical Syndicate.

egypt doctors ap
egypt doctors ap

He told Al Arabiya English that he believed assaults by security forces against doctors and nursing staff were rampant and it was about time that the law is enforced and justice be delivered.

“Some police members feel they are above other members of society, and that they can get away with anything without being punished,” he said.

“We respect the role of police and the sacrifices they make to ensure security but that does not give them a permit to violate the rights of others.”

Abdel Dayem said he expected doctors to respond to a nationwide protest movement planned for next Saturday.

“Planned protests are to remind authorities we insist our demands be met and we will keep calling for them to be implemented.”

The syndicate demanded free services in public hospitals and threatened a partial strike in two weeks' time unless the officers involved in Cairo's Matariya hospital abuse case last week are held accountable.

It also called for measures to protect medics from police intimidation and the health minister submits his resignation.

egypt doctors reuters
egypt doctors reuters

Abdel Dayem denied the syndicate had started a partial strike.

“We reject strikes for now,” he said, adding that it will be the last option to resort to. “But escalating steps will be taken if demands are not met.”

He said the “people are responding positively” to the protest movement because “everyone is frustrated” with what he described as “security forces’ interference in several institutions.”

Dr. Ahmad Hussein, another member of the doctor’s syndicate, told Al Arabiya News the movement was solely nonpolitical.

Hussein denounced attempts to cast doubt on the motives of the doctors’ movement by some groups, who claimed the syndicate has called for “suspicious strikes” backed by the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group and opposition April 6 Youth Movement.

“Efforts to cast doubts by trying to politicize our legal and fair demands will fail,” he said.

egypt doctors ap
egypt doctors ap

Hussein also blamed the country’s health minister for failing to defend doctors against repeated assaults by policemen.

Al Arabiya English attempted to contact the Egyptian health ministry for a response but was unable to reach officials for comment at the time of writing

However, Egypt’s Health Minister Ahmed Emad Eddin was quoted at a press conference saying he “does not accept the insulting of any doctor” and that “the ministry is fully responsible for the dignity of its children.”

More abuses

The police attack on the doctors of al-Matariya Hospital was not the first of its kind, according to a report by a local Egyptian newspaper that recalled incidents during the past few months.

The newspaper report cited an incident were a nurse was slapped a week ago by a policeman in the northern Al-Beheira Governorate after an argument broke out between the two. The incident could have potentially caused the loss of the nurse’s unborn child, according to a statement from the victim’s husband.

While in October, a policeman stormed the director’s office at a hospital and assaulted a nurse and a patient due to the postponement of his father’s surgery.

Last May, a policeman attacked a nurse at a hospital in the governorate of Beni Suef claiming that she refused to treat his sick wife. She reportedly had bruises on her right shoulder and swelling on her right thigh and was admitted to hospital.

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