The Doctors Syndicate announced it will hold another general assembly for its members on Friday at Qasr Al-Eini Hospital, to follow up on the progress of decisions ratified over a month ago.
Mona Mina, the syndicate's secretary-general, said the assembly will discuss the security status at hospitals and the continuous assaults on doctors. The syndicate board will also propose a bill for penalising assaults on doctors, to be discussed during the assembly before being sent to parliament, she added.
Assaults against doctors gained attention following an attack on two doctors at Matariya Teaching Hospital in late January, which sparked anger amongst the doctor community, and pushes for the introduction of legislation to protect doctors from such assaults. Thousands of doctors gathered at the syndicate headquarters two weeks later and voted on a set of demands with the hope of ensuring hospital security.
However, assaults in hospitals have continued despite their demands. On Sunday, a patient's family assaulted the medical staff of Al-Zahraa Educational Hospital in Cairo.
According to the Doctors Syndicate, the patient arrived at the hospital dead, but the residing doctor still examined her case. Shortly afterwards, her family stormed into the hospital in search of the doctor, damaging the emergency room and assaulting doctors residing in the dorms, sparking panic inside the hospital.
The Doctors Syndicate assembly decisions included free of charge medical care in a bid to appease patients and mitigate the pressure on families in finding adequate healthcare,which was thereby expected to decrease assaults on doctors.
This decision in particular angered the Ministry of Health, which considered it a legal violation and a potential cause for a sharp decrease in the state budget.
Hisham Atta, head of medical treatment department at the Ministry of Health, filed a report to Health Minister Ahmed Emad on Sunday, in which he documented concerns from hospitals' management on implementing the decision.
The report stated: "Hospital managers denounce the illegal interference of syndicate representatives in their framework by referring doctors who do not implement the aforementioned decision to a discipline committee."
Mohamed Shawky, a legal consultant for the Doctors' Syndicate, told Daily News Egypt that the syndicate is mandated to implement this decision according to the law and constitution.
"The syndicate decision can be considered illegal only if it does not have a legal back up from the law or constitution, both of which in this case uphold the decision," he said. "The syndicate's decisions are not a new thing. There are laws and constitutional articles, as well as a cabinet decision, that already stipulate the right to free medical healthcare."
He said the Doctors Syndicate law stipulates that doctors must abide by the assembly decisions.
Former prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb issued decision 1063/2014, based on the 2014 Constitution, which guarantees free medical care during the first 48 hours for emergency cases. The decision also priced medical examinations during the official working hours at only EGP 1. The syndicate did not call for banning this clause of the decision, but rather called for banning the exorbitant amount of money required for further examinations.
During the historic general assembly held 12 February, the doctors also agreed on referring the health minister to the discipline committee. Emad, however, did not attend the scheduled session, which resulted in the syndicate referring him to a primary disciplinary court on Sunday.
"The session aims to clear the accused of the charges, but when they miss the session it indicates the validity of those charges," Shawky said. "This primary court is considered a judicial entity for administrative cases, where a representative from the State Council joins the jury."
Following the syndicate's assembly, a lawsuit was filed at the State Council against the legality of those decisions. "It is believed that Emad filed the lawsuit in a bid to impugn the decisions," Shawky further noted. The syndicate is still reviewing the case documents ahead of an upcoming session late March.
The Ministry of Health has consistently claimed the illegality of those decisions, claiming that the syndicate is not allowed to refer doctors to the discipline committee unless they have committed a professional or technical breach during their work, referring to the Doctors Syndicate law.