Egypt faces an unprecedented wave of emigration by physicians, causing concern that the quality of health care in the country could deteriorate further.
Over the past three years, more than 10,000 doctors have left the country, according to the main association representing physicians, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate. The syndicate estimates that half the country’s doctors, or 110,000 out of 220,000 registered doctors, have left the country.
“Doctors’ emigration is worrying and threatens the collapse of the already neglected health system,” said Ehab el-Tahir, a member of the Medical Syndicate Council. He said an increasing number of doctors are resigning from public medical institutions, potentially emptying out some specialties of physicians.
“If this continues, Egyptian patients will soon find nobody to treat them,” he said.
The physician shortage was confirmed by Hala Zayed, the minister of health, in a speech before Egypt’s parliament in September, where she said that there are 103,000 doctors for 100 million citizens, or 10 doctors per 10,000 citizens. The global average is 32 doctors for every 10,000 citizens.
One Result, Many Causes
There are many reasons discouraging doctors from practicing in Egypt. These include low salaries and undesirable working conditions, including poor medical facilities and a lack of supplies in government hospitals. In addition, doctors say they need laws to protect them from patients and their families when they become belligerent if the doctors can’t successfully treat them or if the patients don’t like some aspect of their medical care.
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“We, as doctors, have many problems, starting with the poor salaries, frequent insults, abuse by patients and their families, the distortion of our image and continuous accusations of negligence,” said Khaled Samir, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Medicine. “All of this drives many of us to emigrate.”
Doctors say that if a patient’s condition gets worse or if a patient dies, even if the doctor is not at fault, patients and their families can refer them to public prosecutors and the doctors can be subjected to the provisions of the criminal code. Doctors get an injury allowance for such circumstances but it is only 19 Egyptian pounds ($1.13) a month.