Egypt’s medical union on Monday blamed the government for increasing levels of coronavirus infections and deaths among health care professionals, its sharpest criticism yet of the country’s handling of the pandemic.
Citing growing frustration over a lack of protective equipment, testing and hospital beds for frontline doctors, the union described the Egyptian health ministry’s negligence as “a crime of killing by irresponsibility.”
The union reported that 19 doctors have died and 350 have contracted the virus, according to official figures, although testing of medical staff remains limited.
“The health ministry bears full responsibility,” it said, “as a result of its failure to protect them.”
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has officially recorded 17,967 infections and 783 fatalities due to COVID-19. Although it’s a modest toll compared with the U.S. and Europe, the curve is rapidly accelerating. With under-resourced quarantine hospitals filling up, many fear the worst is yet to come.
The Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS) on Monday also warned of a "complete collapse" of the country's health system, accusing the health ministry of negligence in failing to protect health care workers from coronavirus.
"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," the EMS said in a statement.
The EMS called on the "executive, judicial and legislative" branches of government to force the health ministry to comply with its demands.
These included providing all doctors with personal protective equipment (PPE), training for dealing with coronavirus cases and testing for those with symptoms or who have come into contact with infected people.
Hospitals have been hit by a flight of doctors abroad in recent years while the frontline staff left behind face shortages of medical supplies and protective gear that heightens the risk of infection.
The EMS statement came after 32-year-old doctor Walid Yehia died on Saturday after being unable to secure a bed in an isolation hospital.
The country's 17 isolation hospitals reserved for coronavirus patients reached their maximum capacity at the start of the month, Deputy Health Minister Ahmed al-Sobki told local press last week.