For the first time in its history, the Doctors Syndicate embarked on an administrative strike on Tuesday. This escalation marks the third phase in their protest action, which commenced at the beginning of the year.
Thousands of doctors in public hospitals participated in a partial strike alongside a campaign of collective resignations. On Tuesday they also launched an administrative strike at Health Ministry facilities nationwide.
This latest phase involves a refusal to issue medical documents, including health clearances for drivers’ licenses, blood-type documentation, marital health certificates, medical permits for pilgrims, and health commission evaluations for work abroad.
According to the Doctors Strike Committee, this administrative stoppage will not hinder the issuing of birth and death certificates.
While thousands of doctors have embarked on daily strikes since March 8, it is not clear how many days per week the administrative strike will be enacted for.
The Doctors Syndicate initially called for the administrative strike to take place throughout the working week — with the exception of Mondays and Thursdays, so as to minimize the impact on public healthcare.
The Strike Committee is planning to convene again this Thursday to determine the results so far and future course of action regarding the administrative strike.
Many question whether strikes and collective resignation campaigns will improve or further harm the country’s poor public medical services.
In an interview with Mada Masr earlier in the month, Amr Shora, a member of the Doctors General Syndicate Council said: “First and foremost, patients and doctors alike suffer from the poor conditions of the country’s healthcare system.”
Doctor Shora went on to explain that patients suffer more from the Health Ministry’s negligent hospital services than from partial strikes.
In keeping with their partial work stoppage, striking doctors continue to service emergency rooms, intensive care units, nurseries and surgeries, along with all other pressing medical procedures.
“Public hospitals lack proper facilities, equipment and funding. This is what really harms Egypt’s patients. We are part of a medical system with sub-human standards. This is our way of objecting to this broken system, and aspiring to improve it,” Shora said.
Since May 2011, the Doctors Syndicate has been seeking to put pressure on both the Ministries of Health and Finance, so as to increase the current healthcare allocation in the national budget from around three percent to 15 percent.
Regarding the threats of mass resignations from the Health Ministry, Shora explained that the campaign is ongoing and the list of signatories would be submitted to the Health Ministry when it reaches 20,000 doctors.
The ministry and a host of mainstream media outlets have criticized the industrial action — particularly the administrative strike — suggesting that it might impact on the personal, religious and professional endeavors of countless Egyptians nationwide.
The impact of the strikes is still being assessed.
TV presenters on the state-owned Nile Life satellite channel commented that such an administrative strike will alienate patients and ordinary people from seeking medical certificates, and “will prevent people from receiving proper treatment, traveling abroad, marrying and working.”