Health workers are resigning and the country's national health system shows signs that it is buckling under pressure from the global pandemic.
Egypt's top medical union has warned authorities in a Facebook post, that the country's health system is at risk of “complete collapse” due to negligence by the health ministry, and that this could ultimately culminate in a “health disaster”.
The statement is a rare sign of protest in the authoritarian country led by President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, where signs of dissent are habitually quashed by the state.
According to the country’s medical union, which represents thousands of medical professionals, Covid-19 has killed 19 doctors and infected more than 350.
The growing frustration with authorities is centered around a lack of necessary health and safety equipment for frontline medical staff, who face the highest risk of contracting coronavirus.
To communicate their desperation and to raise awareness of their plight, online reports have shown some doctors resigning from their positions.
When the government suggested that the Egyptian medical union should be using its own resources to treat doctors suffering from the coronavirus, the medical association hit back strongly by suggesting there are insufficient funds, and the use of what they have would be akin to ridding doctors of their pensions.
Dr Ehab Al Tahir, the Secretary General of the Egyptian doctors union, warned authorities against using propaganda that would, in effect, “incite citizens against doctors.”
“The responsibility of the government and parliament is to meet the requirements of the health system, and we wonder where the millions of dollars meant to deal with the epidemic has been spent if you are not even able to provide protection and treatment to the doctors themselves,” said Al Tahir.
Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country with almost 100 million people. The country has officially registered almost 20,000 infections and 783 deaths.
For decades, Egyptian health workers have been underpaid leading to thousands leaving the country. The Egyptian medical union estimates that between 2016-2019, more than 10,000 doctors have left the country seeking a better life.
The recent pandemic has also shed light on the risk allowance paid to doctors who work in difficult conditions.
At just under $2, this small addition to their stipends has been derided country-wide as an amount that falls short in appropriately compensating health workers for the daily risks they take to keep civilians safe.
The Egyptian medical union on Tuesday released a statement affirming that it stands ready to work with the government to meet the needs created by the coronavirus.
It also added that medical personnel lacked the necessary tests for early detection of the virus and that there needed to be a mechanism to ensure that staff were properly looked after and rehabilitated back to work under the right conditions.
“Our duty is to fight and your duty is to protect us and provide full prevention and treatment,” said the medical union. They added, bleakly, “Every day we die and no one wants to protect us.”