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Egyptian Doctors' migration: Why do they resign?

Egyptian doctors check a patient's lung X-ray at the infectious diseases unit of the Imbaba hospital in the capital Cairo, on April 19,2020, during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis [AHMED HASAN/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian doctors check a patient's lung X-ray at the Imbaba hospital in the capital Cairo, on 19 April 2020 [AHMED HASAN/AFP via Getty Images]

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate revealed the resignation of 11,536 doctors from working in the government sector from the beginning of 2019 until last March 2020, which is considered a continuation of doctors' reluctance to work in the government sector and their increasing quest to migrate outside Egypt due to the poor conditions they suffer.

The Medical Syndicate's data confirms the government's failure to achieve its goals, announced in 2019, to attract 60,000 doctors to government work again. Everything it has said over the past years about improving the conditions for doctors is nothing but empty propaganda.

In March 2019, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Population, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research issued a study on Egypt's requirements for medical doctors, compared to international figures. The study stated that the number of medical doctors licensed to practice medicine until the end of 2018, excluding doctors on a pension, is estimated at 212,835, while those who work in Egypt, during the same time in various agencies, are approximately 82,000 doctors only, 38 per cent of those licensed to practice medicine.

The study added that the number of doctors in Egypt is 8.6 for every 10,000 citizens, while the global average is 23 doctors for every 10,000 citizens!

The government study recommended that the State adopt a plan to reduce doctors' migration, including raising the level of training, securing an appropriate work environment and improving doctors' economic and social conditions. So, over the next five years (from 2020 to 2025), this plan targets the return of 60,000 doctors to work in the government health sector. Unfortunately, despite the passage of 3 years since the issuance of this study, numbers confirm that things are getting worse, with an increase in doctors' migration and their reluctance to work in the government sector.

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Between 2016 and 2018, 6,205 doctors resigned from government work. While the number increased significantly between (2019 and March 2022) to 11,536 doctors, with an increase of 86 per cent.

According to the Physicians' Syndicate records, the number of doctors registered with the Syndicate and licensed to practice the profession, excluding doctors on a pension, reached 228,862 doctors as of last March. The number of doctors working in the government sector is approximately 93,536, an increase of only 11,536 doctors from the situation in 2019, representing only 19 per cent of the number that the government pledged to attract (60,000 doctors) to the government medical sector until 2025.

Thus, the ratio of doctors in the government sector to the number of doctors licensed to practice the profession prior to retirement is 40.8 per cent, an increase of only 2.8 per cent from 2019.

The ratio of doctors to citizens increases to 9 doctors for every 10,000 citizens, instead of 8.6 per cent at the beginning of 2019. However, it is far from the global average of 23 doctors per 10,000 citizens.

This slight increase is due to the rise in the number of students admitted to faculties of medicine in public and private universities.

Low wages are the main reason doctors resign from government work and migrate to work abroad or work in the private sector.

A doctor residing in Serbia earns 600 Euros per month, equivalent to 12,000 Egyptian pounds. In contrast, a surgeon in Somalia makes $ 5,000 per month, equal to 91,000 Egyptian pounds. In Sweden, a general practitioner receives $1,600, equivalent to 30 thousand Egyptian pounds and, in Malaysia, a newly graduated doctor earns $1,200 a month, equal to 22,000 Egyptian pounds. The average monthly doctor's salary in Turkey is 22,000 Egyptian pounds. The minimum monthly doctor's salary in Saudi Arabia is 22,000 Egyptian pounds.

However, the average salary for a resident doctor in Egypt is only 3,700 Egyptian pounds ($201), and the average doctor's pension, after about 35 years working in the government, is only 2,300 Egyptian pounds ($125).

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In addition, the continuous attacks on doctors in most hospitals, the poor opportunities for postgraduate studies and their high costs compared to the entry of doctors, and the assault on medical facilities by patients' eligibility, came at the forefront of the reasons for doctors' resignation from government hospitals, their emigration and their reluctance to attend work in critical disciplines.

One of the crucial reasons is the lack of a law to hold doctors accountable, in case of incoming medical complications known globally and hold them responsible under the criminal law as outlaws.

The regime does not have the money to pay doctors decent wages and pensions, provide them with proper rest or provide hospitals with insurance to protect doctors. Moreover, it does not guarantee free graduate studies to motivate them to stay and not emigrate. However, it does have hundreds of billions to build presidential palaces and luxurious government headquarters in the new capital.

For as long as government priorities continue to be imbalanced, doctors will continue to resign from government work and flee abroad in search of a better life. At the same time, the poor citizen will remain the only victim.

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