The Doctors’ Syndicate agreed on Friday to hold a partial strike twice a week starting February as a form of escalation to push for reforms within the public healthcare sector.
The syndicate already carried out partial strikes on 1 and 8 January, where the level of participation was at least 75%, according to syndicate figures.
In a meeting between members of the Doctors’ General Syndicate and other sub-syndicates on Friday, doctors agreed to begin their partial strike in February, with a plan to strike three days a week in March. Rapporteur of the Media Committee of the Doctors’ Syndicate Hossam Kamal said that should the partial strike remain fruitless, the doctors intend to upgrade their strike to an open-ended one after March.
The Doctors’ Syndicate decided it will not take part in the partial strike organised by the Medical Professionals Union on Sunday and Monday, Kamal said. The union includes representatives of doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists and nursing staff; however, Kamal said that the union’s decision is not binding to the syndicates represented within.
“The Doctors’ General Syndicate and the sub-syndicates decided we would rather wait and properly prepare for the strike,” Kamal said. “That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t support the Medical Professionals Union’s strike and wish it succeeds.”
The syndicate is starting an awareness campaign regarding the degree of effectiveness and legality of collective resignations among doctors, Kamal said.
“Should doctors nationwide welcome the idea, we will begin implementing it starting March,” he added. The collective resignations are meant to be another form of escalation to push the authorities to carry out the syndicate’s demands.
Doctors have been trying to push for the ratification of the draft Staff Law, which would organise financial, technical and administrative matters such as training, promotions and working hours for all professionals in the public healthcare sector. A bulk of doctors’ incomes is made up of bonuses and incentives; however, doctors demand that pay raises increase their fixed salary, which is what the draft Staff Law would achieve if passed.
The Doctors’ Syndicate agreed on Friday to halt all negotiations with the Ministry of Health until the ministry demonstrates its “seriousness” with regards to passing the bill.
On 31 December, the cabinet approved a law that would raise salaries for all medical professionals; however, doctors were not pleased since the raise would increase incentives rather than the fixed salary.
“We would understand if the cabinet’s law is an immediate sedative for doctors,” Kamal said. “But if they want to pass it instead of the draft Staff Law, this would be unacceptable.”
Ministry of Health Spokesman Mohamed Fathallah said that the ministry is yet to “study” the Doctors’ Syndicate’s decisions and respond to them.
In addition to the passing the Staff Law, doctors are also demanding an improvement in security conditions in hospitals, by demanding that a law be passed to enforce harsher penalties on anyone who commits an act of aggression against doctors or hospitals, and that the state budget for health be raised.
In 2012, doctors staged a partial strike which lasted longer than 80 days and ended with the stipulation that the bill would soon be passed. Subsequently, the draft Staff Law was handed to the Shura Council in 2013, but the legislature did not survive to pass it.
Like the previous strikes, the upcoming one is set to include all hospitals and medical institutions that operate within the public healthcare sector.
Typically, the strike affects all non-emergency medical services and outpatient clinics. However, the emergency department, emergency operations, kidney dialysis, intensive care units and incubators continue to run normally.
Additional reporting by Hend Kortam