Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Doctors Striking: Outrageous, Yet Very Necessary.

Today there was a nation wide strike calling all Egyptian Doctors working in any public hospital to simply stop working.

I know what you're thinking:

That's insane! So they're just going to let the patients die simply in a bid to garner media attention for themselves and ride off the coat tails of the revolution to spark some interest just so they could increase their salary?

No. That's not it.

As far as I can tell, the main reason behind the strike (read here if you're Arabic inclined http://www.edraab.com/?page_id=2) was simply a response to the incredible amount of corruption all public hospitals have to endure. Let me explain a few things in order to illuminate your perspective.

First things first, it's not a complete strike. The Emergency Wards, Intensive Care Units, Neonatology units and Renal Failure units are still fully operational. That means any case that's at an immediate risk of dying will be looked after and resuscitated. This is a pretty big fucking deal. Almost all the wards in the hospital are full of stable patients, that, for lack of a better term, can afford a day of not receiving constant attention. Also, understand that not 100 percent of the doctors are participating in this strike. Most residents I know can't afford to not go to work because they're going to get in trouble with their superiors. So, although there might be a 'strike' to not work, it's not really all that effective because let's face it, doctors can't really stop practising even if for a day. I am 100% sure that if I were to talk to every single patient staying at the hospital and ask whether or not they'd support the doctors' strike in a bid for increased government spending, they'd agree and tell me that they'd join the protest if they could.

Now there's a whole lot of fuss about how ethical it is to simply stop working in an attempt to prove a point. Surely there must be another way? Let me tell you a little story that happened in my days in the ER ward. The ER ward has its own CT machine. Now for those that don't know what a CT machine is, it's a souped X-Ray  Machine. It can diagnose things better and sometimes even differentiate between different afflictions. It's a basic, fundamental and ESSENTIAL part of the process of reaching a proper management plan for patients.

The CT machine has been offline for more than 6 months now. That means for example, that whenever a patient undergoes a head trauma and needs a CT asap, they have to go up to the 2nd floor use the ONE CT machine for the entire hospital. And you better hope to God that that machine is working because otherwise, the patient would have to get into an ambulance (that takes about 20 minutes to show up) and go the Internal Medicine Hospital (that's about 20 minutes away in rush hour) and wait for the elevator so that they can do it on the 2nd floor there. This is of course, assuming that the elevators are always working (...they're not.)

This is one example. Others include, lack of proper intubators (for introducing a tube into an arresting patient's trachea) , lack of AMBU bags (which said tube then connects to for a proper supply of oxygen). Syringes, gloves, medication, even fucking saline are always deficient all the time.

Now I know what you're thinking:

But Dr.A, doctor shit is expensive yo!

True. However that's not your problem. That's the government's problem. Fact: Back in the 60s and 70s Kasr Al Aini was an incredible and prestigious hospital. People flocked from all over the world to see this magnificent hospital at work.

But we had more money back then!

No, we didn't. It's just that corruption wasn't as fucking rampant as it is now.

The worst part of all of it is that it reflects poorly on the interns and rising doctors as well. Imagine always being told there's nothing you can do because you lack even the most basic of facilities. That can jade anyone and turn them into a cynical asshole. I for one haven't escaped that mentality. Watching a mother's newborn die, just because there aren't enough incubators can darken even the brightest of souls. ( Here's another fun fact about that. The mother and father actually have to sign a paper that says the hospital isn't responsible for the inevitable death of their unborn baby due to there being no incubators. This is done before she gives birth. Imagine, signing a death warrant for your unborn child.)

But surely the strike is a drastic measure? Why not goad the deans? Talk to people? Let the media in on the travesties that occur. Been there done that. Not much happens because the public hospitals are always taken for granted. And the important people don't ever get to go to public hospitals because why go to a public hospital when you can go to a  much better private one. My friend personally tried to get them to repair the CT machine for months and gathered petitions and went the decent and righteous way, only to no avail.

So yes, this is a drastic measure. However, I'm hoping it garners enough publicity so that the appropriate pressure can be put on the appropriate people.

I'll end this with a joke. I'm a foreigner, which means I needed to pay for the entirety of my education in Kasr Al Aini. Now there's about 200-300 foreigners maybe in each year. So that's about 1,200 foreign students EVERY year. Each one has to pay 15,000 Egyptian pounds every year for 7 years (it's 6 but the first year they have to pay double so let's just say 7 for ease) . That's 18 million Egyptian Pounds a year.

Fucking Hilarious.


  1. wonderfully clear & concise & humourous writing. irreverent, but sadly true!
    military generals arn't generally known for their support of Life - their primary business is death & killing. [take a scud over a CT scan any day]
    'Bon courage' to your efforts and may the Light be with you.
    blessings from South Africa

  2. I am so glad I discovered your blog! I'm from the US and it is so interesting to see how similar but different our struggles in life are. I think all our hospitals are privately owned and could never see them not having what they need for patient care. You just might go bankrupt in the process of getting well though! I so enjoy reading your posts and your views on everything! Keep up the good work!

  3. Very well said Dr.A! I hear ya! I'm a Kasr graduate myself and now, sadly, a faculty member..The whole health care policy in Egypt is a big mess, just as the education system is..So we get to get fucked up twice! How's that for generating the most cynical, ungrateful of souls?! yet most of us are, amazingly, not! because we still believe that we can make a difference, we still carry that silly dream around! know it sounds dammn cheezy but you know it's the truth..just hope those efforts pay of before it's too late.

  4. Thanks for the feedback you guys.

    Suz: Haha it's very weird how its the total opposite problem in the US. Regardless thanks for reading the blog and being one of the early readers. Means alot :)

    Radwa: You're absolutely right. The strike itself proves that people mostly do care and that the cynicism is not as predominant as it should be which is a great thing.

    Goat: I'm just really glad that someone from South Africa's reading my blog.

    Thank you all and I'll try to keep updating much as I can.