EIPR Urges Security Bodies to Liberate Hospitals from the Control of Thugs

Press Release

16 March 2011

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) urged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to take rapid measures to protect hospitals and doctors from the repeated attacks they have sustained over the last four weeks. The EIPR has documented numerous acts of violence against hospitals, doctors and patients carried out by individuals thought to be thugs, in some cases for the purpose of benefiting from the aid provided by charity groups for the casualties of the Revolution, while at other times for the purpose of staying admitted in the hospital despite medical reports declaring them fit to be discharged. Some of these individuals have gone as far as intervening with the doctors' decisions by forcing them to give some patients treatment priority or to discharge and not treat other patients at all. In addition, some popular defense committees inside hospitals have taken it upon themselves to determine who requires treatment and who does not.

“Securing the lives of doctors is an essential prerequisite for them to be able to fulfill their duty in relieving patients’ suffering, especially in the current circumstances,” said Dr. Amani Massoud, Deputy Director of EIPR’s Right to Health Program. “We urge the armed forces to respond to doctors’ demands for real and effective protection and to ensure that those who intimidate or threaten them will be held accountable.”

The EIPR has learned from officials at the Qasr al-Aini, Ahmed Maher and Abu Rish hospitals, all in Cairo, as well as the Main University Hospital (El-Meery) in Alexandria, that thugs have stormed the hospitals in large numbers, assaulting security personnel and doctors and taking control of these institutions without the slightest resistance.

One doctor at the Qasr al-Aini Hospital said, “Thugs entered the reception rooms wearing belts with knives hanging from them and began intimidating the doctors. A hospital security staff member had his nose broken while trying to stand up to them. Some departments, especially the ophthalmology department, have come completely under the control of thugs, who are after the financial support and other donations offered by civil society organizations and community-based initiatives for those injured in the Revolution.”

He added, “Anyone who tries to discharge them from the hospital is threatened.”

The EIPR also documented a case in which patients were prohibited from leaving the internal medicine department at the Main University Hospital (El-Meery) in Alexandria, even after they had recovered. One nurse who attempted to discharge a patient was threatened at knifepoint.

One attending doctor from Ahmed Maher Hospital in Cairo said that on 8 February, a large number of thugs who had been wounded in a fight stormed the reception area of the hospital with firearms and knives; one stabbed a doctor in the thigh. Shortly after the hospital reported the incident to the Ministry of Interior and upon the arrival of the police, those armed with firearms fled while the rest concealed their knives. After the incident, the popular defense committees assumed responsibility for protecting the hospital, but this created several problems as well, as members of the committee interfered with the doctors’ work, specifying who needed urgent care and who could wait for treatment.

In many of these hospitals, doctors have staged strikes and sit-ins, demanding that the army provides them with necessary protection.

The EIPR stated that leaving hospitals open to attacks by thugs or extortion by popular committees, whose members are not vetted in any way, has serious ramifications for the security of doctors and the health of patients. As a result of these events, some hospital departments have shut down, and patients are forced to wait for long periods before an examination, as hospital staff are preoccupied with the attacks.