In Post-Revolution Egypt, Street Violence Spills Into Hospitals
After the regime fell, the security vacuum has posed a new set of problems in some hospitals, where doctors and medical workers describe chaotic encounters with enraged – and sometimes armed – patients.
CAIRO -- In post-revolutionary Egypt, an escalating state of lawlessness is complicating the lives of some doctors and hospital workers, who find themselves caught between their sworn duties as medical practitioners, and the dangers of dealing with a desperate — and at times delusional — population.
Several weeks ago, a man walked into a downtown Cairo's Ahmed Maher Teaching Hospital 1 asking to be admitted as a patient into the neurology department. The receptionist apologized and politely informed the man that the hospital in question has no neurology department. The man responded by pulling out a gun, aiming it at the receptionist, and repeating his request.
"He simply refused to believe that we did not have a neurology department — he kept screaming ‘what kind of hospital is this," calling us con artists, and making threats," recalls Dr. Mohamed Mostafa Abdel Ghaffar, the hospital's general manager. "What do you do in that kind of situation?"
Sadly, the incident is far from an isolated case. Al-Masry Al-Youm visited seven hospitals in the greater Cairo area. In all of them, staff offered similar complaints and shared numerous alarming anecdotes.
"People have come out of the revolution with the belief that there is no limit to the amount of rights that they can demand — any request, any desire or whim has now become a basic human right," says Ghaffar. "You add that to widespread anti-authority sentiments and a state of lawlessness, and it's not at all surprising that the result will be absolute chaos."
It's become routine, he explains, for hospital workers to brace themselves for a physical altercation of some kind upon hearing angered cries of "what do you mean there's no room in the hospital?" or "what do you mean you can't perform my surgery right now?"
Worse yet, Ghaffar points out, is the violence that comes spilling in from the streets. The Ahmed Maher Teaching Hospital suffers from its central downtown location, with one building separating it from the Cairo Security Directorate — which makes the hospital's lack of police protection surprising. "Sometimes it feels as if we're in a war zone," he says of both the influx of patients and the intensity of their wounds.
Doctors at the Coptic Hospital on Ramses Street have had to deal with similar situations, particularly following the violence that broke out between Coptic protesters and the armed forces outside the state television building, Maspero, on Oct. 9. "People were throwing burning tires and Molotov cocktails through our windows," explains Dr. Mohib Ibrahim Fanous, the hospital's general manager. "We couldn't rely on the police — they were more scared than the hospital staff. Most of them ran away."
Read the full original article by Ali Abdel Mohsen
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