For decades, the health care system in Egypt has been deteriorating and a succession of ministers one after the other haven’t caused any significant progress, on the contrary, matters are going from bad to worse. As per a recent survey report, 2100 patients have died due to negligence.
A lot of challenges are facing the Ministry of Health, including the tremendous effort exerted to fight Virus C. Despite this, the virus is still spreading with some 16,500 new infections every year mainly due to using unsterilized needles.
In July 2014, Egypt agreed with the WHO to access oral hepatitis C treatments that promises higher cure rates with significantly reduced costs. Hepatitis C is a major challenge, and although there are 26 specialized centers and 350,000 people cured in the last six years, there is still a lot to be accomplished.
Egypt is also working to improve training on infection control for doctors and nurses by boosting their awareness to stamp out unsafe medical practices such as reusing needles and other medical devices that should be discarded, especially in the villages and small towns. Public awareness campaigns have also been organized by the ministry to educate people to avoid injection by unsterilized syringes and needles.
Conditions in Public Hospitals
Public hospitals, health insurance facilities and some private hospitals’ conditions have become so alarming, not only in hamlets and villages but in main cities as well.
In general, the hospitals suffer from proper hygiene. Over and above, shortage of vital equipment, medication, basic medical supplies such as cotton, bandages, thermometers, as well as untrained nursing, are some of many that the hospitals lack. If these supplies are available, they are sold at much higher prices, which are not affordable by the low-income patient.
Confirmed Cases of Negligence
A woman delivered a baby on the threshold of one of the public hospitals that refused admitting her, claiming that there were not enough beds. In another incident, due to a lack of generators, several newly born babies that were in incubators died when electricity was cut off. There was also a case where, due to a lack of beds, a lady was obliged to sleep in the same bed with her sick mother against paying 30 EGP each night to the nurse.
It was a shocking experience, visiting one of the public hospitals — the Abou El Reesh Hospital. I felt depressed and downhearted at first sight as it was like a public marketplace, with noise, people and nurses screaming, dirt everywhere, and the hospital’s roof turned into a garbage dump where flammable materials were stored.
El Demerdash hospital was no better off; negligence and chaos, ill-treatment of patients and non-availability of drugs, resulting in patients obliged to buy medicine from pharmacies outside the hospital at non-affordable prices, even prescriptions are written on a piece of paper. One of the dilemmas at the hospital is the long waiting list for an operation and patients have to either wait or go to one of the costly hospitals, while some people pay the nurse to place them at the top of the list.
Doctors also treat HIV patients without gloves. “Due to lack of medical supplies, we reuse things that we shouldn’t, and sometimes we buy basic supplies like thermometers and blood pressure kits from our own pockets,” one of the doctors said. Another doctor claimed, “I see from 200–300 patients in a 12-hour shift with only one nurse responsible for 40 patients at the same time.”
Nasr City Hospital, that treats patients who have public health coverage offered through the Ministry of Health, is also a grieving situation. There is a lack of equipment and beds in the intensive care, and cardiac and kidney dialysis units have a long waiting list. My father-in-law used to go there for treatment, having to return home then go back again the following day in the hope of getting in.
Conditions in Private Hospitals
El Nozha International Hospital suffers from a state of chaos and noise inside the hospital and in the outpatient clinics. During my stay there for an urgent surgery, I had an unpleasant experience from the first moment I stepped in. The nurse had no idea how to install a cannula to the extent that it caused me great pain in my arm, over and above, the nurses usually do not serve you unless they take a good tip on a daily basis.
Despite the gloomy image of health in Egypt, there is still a glimmer of hope, especially that Egypt has a huge health infrastructure which can lead to tremendous results, if the system is properly managed. Actually, we have some bright examples, which should be our pilot cases for radical changes in medication and nursing quality at both private and public hospitals.
Dr. Magdy Yaacoub Cardiac Center
The Cardiac Center in Aswan is an exceptional project that was launched in 2009 and is a real example of a system that provides the highest standards of care to patients, focusing on state-of-the-art facilities, resources, research and scientific methods. Though it depends mainly on donations, it shows a genuine pattern of quality doctors, outstanding service, cleanliness, loyalty and devotion to work by all the staff.
Dr. Yaacoub received many grateful letters from people whom he conducted serious surgeries on when they were children and now are grown ups and enjoy a happy, healthy life. One example of the founder’s dedication to his profession is when he recently found out that there was a child in a critical condition and needed immediate surgery, but his mother could not afford the price of a train ticket to travel to Aswan. Dr. Yaacoub booked an air ticket for her to Aswan and received her himself at the airport, then took her and the child to the center to run the operation. Dr. Yaacoub’s valuable contributions will never be forgotten, as he has engraved his name in gold inside the hearts of all kids and parents.
57357’s mission is to provide charitable support to Egyptian hospitals and non-profit organizations focused on cancer in the areas of patient care, scientific advancement and education. Their vision is to provide all children suffering from cancer with an opportunity for the highest quality treatment, under the slogan, “Every Kid Deserves A Chance.” The hospital helps many poor children overcome their illness and be cured completely from cancer. Among the treatment techniques they offer is music and songs with a message of hope, and Amo Karawan and the clown character encourage patients to talk and helps them to be cheerful and optimistic. Amo adds, “My role is not only playing with the children, but to teach them patience and how to overcome their pains with a smile. I consider 57357 my home and I love to be there to receive the children at admittance and make them happy from the first moment they enter the hospital.”
Yasmine, a patient at the hospital, said: “I was depressed and felt hopeless when I first came to the hospital. My parents as well had no hope that I would be cured, yet they were always giving me hope and support. However, when I entered 57357, all my worries were gone and I started to feel better under the constant care of the doctors and nurses there. I don’t feel that I’m missing anything; I feel at home and I made a lot of friends. Now after two years, I am 90% cured and I’ll be going home soon.”
The Saudi-German Hospital
The hospital opened in 2015 with the motto: “Leading with innovation. Serving with compassion.” I’ve been to the hospital twice, and from the moment you enter, you see that the standard of service is like a seven stars hotel. Decent Korean and Egyptian nurses provide medical services quietly, respectfully, passionately and with full commitment. They know their job and they never wait for tips in return.
Cleanliness and tranquility prevails inside the hospital and at the outpatient clinic. Everything in the clinic is well-organized. The staff at the reception desk are courteous and helpful and the doctors arrive on time, which never happens in other clinics.
One of the patients in the intensive care said, “I entered the hospital suffering from non-regular heartbeats and a team of doctors immediately handled the case efficiently and professionally. There was the most comprehensive range of state-of-art diagnostic equipment and treatment tools including the catheterization laboratory.” He added, “They admitted me in the intensive care unit to monitor my condition for 24 hours, during which I was given ultimate and constant care by the doctors and nurses who monitored my case regularly, until they were sure that my heartbeats were back to normal.”
The healthcare system in Egypt is in critical need of change. The majority of hospitals are in need of funding, quality control and staff monitoring to avoid the current state of negligence. Hope in this change is based on the fact that the government is currently working on a plan to improve the public healthcare system.