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Coronavirus: Egypt’s doctors outraged as prime minister blames them for deaths

Egypt's medical union says real reason behind surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities is shortage of PPE and ICU beds
Prime minister Mostafa Madbouly has suggested doctors are to blame for the spike of coronavirus deaths in Egypt (Reuters/File photo)

Egypt’s top medical union has decried remarks by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly who attributed the recent spike in coronavirus deaths in the country to the absence of medical staff. 

On Tuesday, Madbouly cited “the absence of a number of doctors” and “the irregular work performance” among medical staff as the cause of some deaths of Covid-19 patients. 

The statement has triggered furious reactions by doctors and the Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS), which argued that the real reason for the spike in cases and fatalities is the shortage of medical equipment and ICU beds in the country. 

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“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Egyptian doctors have been an extraordinary example of sacrifice and working under immense pressure,” the syndicate said in a statement.

It also highlighted the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in some hospitals and assaults on a number of medical personnel without accountability for the perpetrators, referring to people attacking doctors for turning them away due to the lack of beds or equipment at hospitals.

In one incident, the family of a coronavirus patient beat up his doctor after the man succumbed to the illness.

The union condemned the delay in issuing a law that would criminalise such attacks, a demand that doctors have made for years.

It added that remarks blaming doctors, such as the one made by the prime minister, constitute “an incitement against doctors” that would only fuel anger against them, therefore contributing to more attacks.

The syndicate demanded an apology from the prime minister, urging him to instead investigate the surge in the deaths of healthcare workers, which have now reached nearly 100, and the more than 3,000 injuries they have sustained.

A cabinet spokesperson responded to the syndicate later on Tuesday saying that a government investigation has found that the absence of some medical staff has led to the death of two coronavirus patients, and that the prime minister's statement should not be generalised. 

Crackdown on doctors

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many medical professionals have voiced their opinions online, mainly complaining about the lack of PPE in the country and the lack of government funding for the overstretched health care sector. 

In response, authorities have detained at least five doctors and accused them of spreading false news or joining a terror group, two of the most commonly used charges against political dissidents. 

Two of the doctors, according to the union, have been arrested from their private clinics. 

Egypt, home to 100 million people, has so far recorded 58,141 cases of coronavirus and 2,365 deaths - the highest death toll in the Arab world.

A study by the Egyptian polling think tank Baseera, published Monday, estimated that more than 600,000 people have contracted Covid-19. Only 12 percent of those who reported symptoms have been hospitalised, according to the survey, explaining the discrepancy between official numbers and the actual spread of the disease.