Egyptian doctors demand health minister dismissal over police impunity
Members of Doctors' Syndicate standing outside the headquarters of the syndicate Friday, Feb.12 ,2016 protesting police violence against Matariya Hospital. A man appears tying his hands with stethoscope Photo by Khaled Kamel/Youm7.

CAIRO: A Friday assembly of thousands of doctors demanded the dismissal of Health Minister over “inaction on protecting them on duty” after policemen, accused of assaulting doctors, were set free.

Downtown Cairo’s street of El-Kasr el-Ainy was packed with doctors protesting outside their union’s headquarters Friday against what many rights groups called as police impunity. The doctors held an unusual meeting to discuss the matter after their demand to hold perpetrators accountable was not met.

During the meeting, they unanimously voted for referring Minister of Health Ahmed Emad to disciplinary council “for not taking real procedures in protecting doctors during their work,” according to the website of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate.

They also agreed on providing medical service and examinations for free to all patients.

The emergency assembly was held after the prosecution released Thursday nine policemen, accused of physically attacking Matariya Teaching Hospital doctors last month, one day after they were ordered detained.

The prosecution decision has triggered anger among doctors who expressed their “disappointment,” and it has also stirred condemnation by social media users, who showed high support to doctors by creating “SolidaritywithDoctorsSyndicate” hashtag.

The protest has witnessed the participation of members of other unions, including the Journalists’ Syndicate, who chanted in support of doctors’ rights and against police violence.

A proposed mass strike was voted for 44 percent of the attendees; however, the doctors agreed that they had the right to refrain from work in case they were assaulted or a medical facility was attacked, and to extend the work strike effectively until the perpetrator is referred to investigations.

The doctors also voted for activating security system at all medical facilities, and to issue a legislation to punish any attack on their workers.

According to the Egypt’s Attorney-General statement, the accused policemen headed in plainclothes to the hospital to issue a fake medical report, but the doctors rejected, which erupted altercations; the policemen reportedly attacked the doctors.

However, the investigations quoted the policemen denying the assault, while a nurse’s accounts corroborated with the attack story.

The Interior Ministry reiterated its denial to “systematic violence” by police personnel, and described the incident as “individual irregularities” that does not represent the ministry’s strategy.

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