Egyptian Front for Human Rights condemns the Egyptian authorities for resorting to security solutions to address the problems of the health sector amid coronavirus spread. Death, infection, and arbitrary arrest of doctors has been on the rise since the spread. In addition to the mounting deaths to reach 37 deaths and at least 372 infected, the authorities have started monitoring doctors on social media which resulted in the arrest of a number of medics.
While the State press center said Egypt was “one of the most successful countries in dealing with coronavirus”, it is clear that the only way the authorities are responding to the situation is through the State Security body. Instead of combating the pandemic through providing the health sector with the required medical supplies, the state is targeting medics and thus causing more damage to the system. Worthy to note that, according to WHO, 11% of the corona infected population in Egypt is from the medical staff.
The medics criticized the Egyptian government for sending medical supplies to other countries while failing to source it for national hospitals. A number of doctors spoke out over the lack of protective medical equipment to fight the pandemic. As a result, the authorities responded to this violently by arresting a number of medics and holding them on remand.
Four doctors and a pharmacist were arrested and added to the same case – no. 558/2020 – facing charges of joining a group established contrary to the provisions of the law, disseminating false new news, and misusing social media platforms against the backdrop of speaking out and calling for better infection control measures for the medics. It started with Dr. Alaa Shabaan Hemeda Abd El-Lateef, 26 years, who works at elShatby hospital in Alexandria. After a nurse used Dr’s phone to report a corona case, the hospital manager reported the Dr to the police and got her arrested on March 28. Dr. Shaaban appeared two days before the prosecution after forcibly disappearing and was added to case no. 558/2020.
On April 4th, pharmacist Dr. Mohamed Kamel Ghanem was arrested and forcibly disappeared for five days. The prosecution held him on remand after finding he criticized the minister of health on Facebook.
Eye surgeon Dr. Hani Bakr Ali kaheel, at Tookh hospital-Qalyobya, 36 years, was arrested on April 10th from his house at Tookh. He forcibly disappeared for 18 days to appear before the prosecution facing charges of spreading false news on social media websites as he criticized the authorities for sending medical equipment to Italy while our national hospitals are in dire need of such equipment.
Dr. Ahmed Sabra Ibrahim, assistant professor at Benha medical school, 44 years, was arrested from his private practice at Benha, forcibly disappeared for 12 days, and then was added to the same case facing the same aforementioned charges.
Dr. Ibrahim Bediewy, a general practitioner in Almattarya hospital, was arrested from his family’s home, and forcibly disappeared for 4 days, and then was added to the case number 535/2020 with the same accusations.
Last but not least, on June 27th the state security prosecution held Dr. Mohamed Motaz El- Fawal on remand after two days of forcibly disappearance, the 39-year-old doctor who works as a professor at Zagazig medical school, and Head of the Radiology Department, emergency Hospital in Zagazig, was arrested from his home after one day of El – Fawal posted on Facebook To demand the prime minister Mostafa Madbouly to apologize after his statement against doctors, which he claims that medics do not work properly during the coronavirus crisis. It is worth mentioning that El -Fawal is a syndicalist who was elected several times in the elections of the Medical Syndicate in Zagazig in 2013 and 2017.
Hospitals facing the State security body.
According to the medical syndicate, the number of doctors working in the public sector, as recorded in February 2019, is 212835. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health claimed it had more than 10 thousand PCR tests done on medic as of the beginning of the pandemic. This shows that only 4.7% of the doctors were tested. while ignoring any reference to nurses, pharmacists, and other health practitioners who contact coronavirus cases daily. Hence, the number of PCR tests is not a clear indicator to the protective measures, this in addition to the refusal of the ministry of health to disclose the real number of infected medics, not only doctors.
Dr. Walid Fathy, 32 years, died on May 24 after contracting coronavirus at alMounira hospital in Cairo due to the system’s failure to provide him with a bed in a quarantine hospital. After Waleed’s death, his colleagues threatened to resign en masse protesting the lack of medical supplies and protective equipment, low pay, and administrative and security threats. The manager of alMounira hospital described this as an “emotional act”, on the other side, the Ministry of health issued a contradictory statement referring to administrative negligence in dealing with Dr Walid’s case and also denied that Dr. Waleed didn’t receive the required medical care. The whole situation was then settled when state security officers met with the doctors who threatened to resign.
Since Mansheyat ElBakry hospital started accepting corona cases in mid- May, the number of infected doctors has mounted to 23. The medics since then have demanded to test for those who have contracted corona patients; however, their calls were totally ignored by the ministry of health. when The doctors decided to halt work to press for PCR tests, protective gear and training; the hospital management threatened to report them to state security. The health ministry sent a notice to hospitals in Beheira governorate and three others warning health workers if they leaked information about coronavirus they will be subjected to legal questioning. Also, one doctor in Dakahlia governorate was interrogated by the ministry of health for accusing the ministry of lacking transparency on Facebook
Instead of protecting the rights of the medics and providing a safe environment to do their job during this critical time, authorities continue to arrest medics over false accusations such as joining a terrorist group and spreading false news. Even before the Corona situation, a number of doctors were arrested, and instead of releasing them to support the medical sector during the pandemic, they are still held in pre-trial detention facing similar charges. This includes Dr. Waleed Ahmed Shawky accused in the case 621/2018 state security who has been held in pre-trial detention since October 2018.
Also, Dr Ahmed el Daydamony has been held on remand in case no 488/2019 for filing requests along with other doctors to the parliament, Ministry of health, and the prime minister office as part of the “furious doctors” campaign. As for Dr. Hassan Abd el Azim, he has been held on remand for more than two years since his arrest in October 2017 in violating pre-trial detention law.
Worthy to note that Dr. Monem Abu el fetouh whose health condition is deteriorating, has been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years now in case 440/2018 before he was being recycled in a new case.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the medical sector used to be referred to as “Egypt’s white army”. However, after medics complained about the lack of medical equipment and protective measures, they are now the “terrorist white army”. The authorities resorted to silencing the voices of the medics instead of addressing the real problem. Egyptian Front for Human Rights holds the Ministry of Health responsible for the death of all medics as a result of negligence as well as the arbitrary arrest of the aforementioned medics. Egyptian Front calls on medical syndicates to follow the situation of the arrested medics who are members of the syndicate. Also, it calls for the immediate release of all medics detained with no conviction as well as providing the medical sector with the required equipment to fight the pandemic instead of resorting to the security solution.