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Coronavirus: Egypt's health workers underwhelmed by Sisi's pay rise gesture

Doctors disappointed with $15-25 bonus call for compensation for those exposed to infectious diseases
Egyptian municipality workers disinfect the Giza pyramids necropolis in Cairo on 25 March (AFP)

Egyptian medical professionals have expressed disappointment with a new pay rise ordered by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to support health workers battling the outbreak of the novel coronavirus

On Sunday, Sisi ratified a 75 percent increase in monthly allowances for medical personnel as a gesture of appreciation, a move that will cost the government EGP 2.25 billion ($142m).

Egypt’s health ministry employs some 60,000 doctors, who earn between EGP 3,000 ($190) and 10,000 ($635) a month.

The new salary increase ranges bewteen EGP 700-1225 ($44-$78) for various medical professions, but doctors have pointed out that the net raise will be equal to just $15-$25 after tax deductions.

“The problem with the pay rise is that it’s calculated as a percentage of the actual salary, itself very low,” said Mostafa Gawish, a doctor and former health ministry official. 

“Therefore, the new pay will not represent any meaningful difference for doctors,” he told Middle East Eye. 

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Furthermore, the infectious disease allowance remains the same, at $1.20, and is not included in the new decree, which only covers allowances related to the nature of the medical professional, rather than the possibility of contracting the virus, Gawish said.

Egypt has so far reported 41 deaths and 656 cases of Covid-19, and the numbers are expected to rise.

Back in 2014, a law enforced under Sisi offered a monthly allowance of between $25.50 and $44.50 to various categories of health professionals. 

Under the new amendment, physicians will have up to 1200 more, and nurses up to 700. 

But Ehab el-Taher, the secretary general of Egypt's Doctors Syndicate, said that the new increases “would be disappointing if not coupled with a genuine increase in infections allowances.”

Taher called for a minimum of $95-190 compensation for those exposed to infectious diseases. 

He also said that the syndicate had sent a draft law with that demand to parliament two years ago, but the bill has yet to be discussed. 

On Monday, the Doctors Syndicate announced the death of Ahmed Ellawah, the first Egyptian doctor to die after testing positive for Covid-19. 

In a statement, the group criticised the new increase as “not commensurate with the efforts and sacrifices made by doctors”, and called for a fair infectious disease compensation “in line with the hazards doctors are exposed to.”