Egypt's doctors warn healthcare system could collapse due to coronavirus 'negligence'

James Rothwell
Egyptians gather in front of the Central Public Health Laboratories in downtown Cairo as they wait to get tested for COVID-19 coronavirus disease - AFP

Egyptian doctors have accused the country's government of failing to shield them against coronavirus and urged ministers to take “full responsibility” for the deaths of their colleagues as they warned the healthcare system was at risk of collapsing. 

In a rare case of public criticism of the Egyptian government, which has mounted a crackdown on media outlets and political dissent, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate accused the health ministry of “negligence.”

“The syndicate is warning that the health system could completely collapse, leading to a catastrophe affecting the entire country if the health ministry's negligence and lack of action towards medical staff is not rectified," said the doctors’ union in a statement seen by broadcaster Al-Jazeera. 

"The EMS holds the health ministry entirely responsible for the mounting deaths and infections among doctors due to its negligence... that is tantamount to death through a dereliction of duty,” it added. 

Egypt, which has the highest population in the Arab world, has recorded nearly 18,000 cases of coronavirus and around 780 deaths. 

According to the union, at least 19 doctors have died from Covid-19 while 350 have been infected with the virus. 

There are also reports of doctors at one Egyptian hospital posting resignation letters on Facebook, though the hospital’s director says they have not received any formal resignations. 

Egyptian doctors say they have not been provided with enough personal protective equipment (PPE), coronavirus tests and beds for staff who have fallen ill. 

However, the Egyptian government has defended its management of the pandemic and insists that stocks of testing kits and PPE are sufficient. 

Hala Zayed, the Egyptian health minister, said the government was “following up to provide the best possible care” for medical workers. 

She said that hospitals have been allocated a floor with 20 beds for staff who have been infected with coronavirus. 

Ms Zayed also denied reports that 19 doctors have died from the disease and said that only 11 doctors had died. 

The criticism follows the death of Walid Yehia, a 31-year-old doctor, who according to his brother did not receive proper medical treatment after contracting coronavirus. 

“Walid didn't deserve what happened... his condition was deteriorating every second,” the brother wrote in a message on Facebook.