CAIRO, Feb. 12 (Aswat Masriya) - Egyptian doctors attending their syndicate's emergency general assembly voted on Friday in favour of providing medical services for free in public hospitals, as a form of protest against an alleged police assault.
Hussein Khairy, the syndicate's chairman, said that the meeting concluded with a 56 per cent vote for the proposal that doctors abstain from accepting fees for medical services from patients in public hospitals while 44 per cent voted in favour of a partial strike.
“The decision will be implemented two weeks from now,” Khairy said.
Thousands of doctors and sympathisers gathered in front of the doctors' syndicate ahead of the general meeting to provide support.
Hany Mehani, a member of the syndicate’s assembly, said that the decision includes all clinics connected to public hospitals throughout the country.
The idea is that by not accepting fees from patients in public hospitals, the state-owned facilities will lose money while patients will not face the health consequences of a strike.
Mehani said that the syndicate decided to follow up on this decision after two weeks so that the doctors have enough time to prepare an urgent plan to accommodate all patients without hurting the poorest of them.
The secretary-general of the syndicate, Ehab Taher, called on the thousands of doctors who were present for the general assembly on Friday to hold a five-minute stand in front of the syndicate to demand that those who violate doctors be held accountable, and that hospitals are provided with security.
Khairy had previously called on board members to meet in response to the "latest assault by policemen on doctors in the Matariya Teaching Hospital in Cairo."
A video published in late January by the Egyptian news portal Mobtada features a doctor detailing the purported assault against him by low-ranking policemen as he attempted to provide one of them with healthcare.
Ahmed Abdallah, a doctor at the Matariya hospital said that two men in plain clothing had come into the hospital, claiming that one of them was injured.
Abdallah examined the injury which turned out to be a "superficial" wound in the man's forehead. "We told him it was superficial... and may not even need stitches," Abdallah said, but that was when trouble started. The injured man perceived the medical opinion as belittling of his injury, according to Abdallah.
"He started insulting and cursing," the doctor said. When the injured man started yelling, the accompanying man walked in and "started beating" and hurling more insults.
It was when Abdallah told the receptionist to call the police station, that he knew that these were policemen after one of them responded, "we are the police station."
A doctor from the administration was brought in to try and calm down the policemen, Abdallah said, but instead they "detained" Abdallah in the reception room and said they would take him to the police station. At one point when tension escalated, a policeman held out his gun at the other doctor.
Abdallah said several other low-ranking policemen, which he estimated to be around "eight or nine," arrived at the scene and held both Abdallah and the other doctor.
Prosecution decided to investigate the case on Wednesday but on Thursday they released the nine policemen who were accused of assaulting the two doctors.
Doctors have been demanding that the policemen be taken to court for their assaults.
Syndicate Deputy Mona Mina said that doctors have been withstanding an unprecedented smearing campaign over the past few days, not just to punish them for demanding that policemen be put to trial for their criminal offences, but also for past positions, such as their stand against a new health insurance law.
Moemen Abdel Azeem, one of the assaulted doctors in the Matariya Teaching hospital, demanded that hospitals be secured.
Rashwan Shabaan, the assistant secertary general for the syndicate staid that "February 12th marks a new history in which no doctor will be assaulted again."
The hashtag "support the doctor's syndicate" went viral on social media, with various other syndicates, including the lawyer's syndicate, announcing their support for the doctors and sympathising with their demands for an end to police assaults.