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Proposed COVID-19 pay rise insufficient, say Egypt’s doctors

Egyptian doctors stand in front of the General Hospital in Hurghada, Egypt, 14 February 2020 [Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images]
Egyptian doctors stand in front of the General Hospital in Hurghada, Egypt, 14 February 2020 [Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images]

Doctors in Egypt have said that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s proposed 75 per cent medical allowance raise is not enough given the gravity of what they are facing as a result of the coronavirus.

The Medical Syndicate and other medical professionals have rallied behind them, with the syndicate issuing an official statement to say that the increase does not reflect the sacrifices medics are making.

Doctors working in hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 patients have not seen their families for weeks, whilst some of them have become infected with the disease.

READ: Egypt’s Sisi tells authorities to boost strategic food reserves

“It is understandable that doctors have refused this decision,” former treasurer of the Egyptian Pharmacists Syndicate told Arabi21.

“The regime’s view of doctors comes as a result of its priorities, which are evident in its low spending on health compared to its spending on protecting the system and its institutions.”

Of Al-Sisi’s 100 billion Egyptian pound ($6.4 billion) support plan to fight coronavirus, only one per cent of this was allocated to health whilst 20 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.3 billion), 20 times more, was allocated to the stock exchange, according to Egypt Watch.

Doctors salaries have not increased since 2014 despite the fact that the Egyptian Medical Syndicate has been asking for a raise for years. In 2014 it filed a court case against the health ministry to raise the infectious disease allowance to 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($64) but the government appealed the ruling twice.

The average salary of a doctor who has just graduated stands at around 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($159).

READ: Egypt billionaire threatens suicide if coronavirus curfew continues

Doctors are demanding 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($633) as a starting salary and 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($317) for nurses, former medical council member Dr. Khaled Samir wrote on Facebook.

The infection allowance for doctors currently stands at 19 Egyptian pounds, around $1, which Dr Mahmoud Al-Zawan has described as “laughable”.

According to Egypt Watch, the infection allowance for banking sector employees is 500 Egyptian pounds ($32) and for judges, 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($191).

Al-Zawan told Arabi21 that the government’s announcement to raise the medical allowance is simply a distraction from the lack of equipment and tools available in the fight COVID-19.

Egyptian doctors have spoken out about the severe lack of simple equipment available to them including disinfectant, masks and protective gloves, which has forced many to buy them out of their own pockets.

READ: Egypt’s banks told to limit withdrawals and deposits

The regime recently stormed the house of Muhammad Hamid, a doctor working at the Gamal Abdel Nasser Public Hospital in Alexandria, who had written a Facebook post complaining about the lack of masks which were vital in preventing doctors from contracting the disease.

Prior to the raid, a security report was prepared on him and after his arrest he was investigated on charges of joining a banned group, publishing false news in charges that echo accusations levelled against the opposition.

Doctors have complained that police are not allowing them to move around during the curfew, which has prevented them from going to night shifts at hospitals.

It has been estimated that more than 30 doctors have been infected with the coronavirus.

Egypt has 779 confirmed cases and recorded 52 deaths, though critics and researchers believe the figures are actually far higher.

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