Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Egypt seizes 16 hospitals that were linked to the Muslim Brotherhood
A committee tasked with appraising and freezing the funds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to take over the assets of 16 hospitals around the country which are under the management of the group. Committee secretary Yasser Abu El-Fotouh said that among the hospitals are El-Safwa hospital in Cairo and the Abdel-Fattah Shahin medical centre in Giza.The hospitals, which are spread over five different governorates, will be put under the supervision of the Egyptian health ministry, and will continue operating normally, Abu El-Fotouh's statement reads. The move, however threatens to wreck a few institutions that provided good medical care in Egypt, because the government sector is as good as dysfunctional.
In December 2013, Egypt's interim authorities designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and froze the assets of many of its members and all affiliated NGOs. In 2014 a court ruling banned all activities of the Brotherhood, from which ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi hails, and ordered the confiscation of the group's assets via a state committee. The committee established to assess the funds of the Brotherhood has confiscated the assets of hundreds of the group's members. It has also seized the organisation's headquarters nationwide, as well as the headquarters of its Freedom and Justice Party. The government also seized the assets of hundreds of Brotherhood members, including cars and agricultural land, as well as privately owned shares in listed companies.Dozens of schools and NGOs with links to Morsi's group were also confiscated.Hundreds of Brotherhood members and the group's top leadership have been arrested by authorities since Morsi's ouster in 2013 and placed on trial on a variety of charges.
The hopsital seizd are: Al-Safwa Hospital, Cairo, Fatah Medical Centre, Cairo, Sakyet Mekki, Cairo, Abdel Fattah Shahin Medical Centre, Cairo,Tiba 1 Hospital, Gharbiya,Al-Shorouk Hospital, Gharbiya,Musah Hospital, Tanta,Tiba 2 Hospital, Qutour, Abul Azm Hopital, Mahalla, Nour Hopital, Mahalla, Toyour Al-Ganna Hopital, Zefta, Al-Hamad Hospital, Zefta, Salam Hospital, Kafr El-Zayyat, Al-Shorouk Hospital, Damietta, Salam Private Hospital, Damietta. Already in January the committee that was charged to take over the funds of the Muslim Brotherhood ordered the confiscation of two medical charity associations, affiliated to the group. An urgent matters court ordered the confiscation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s capital and dissolving any organisations affiliated with it in September 2013, establishing the said committee to oversee the ruling's implementation. The committee ordered the confiscation of all the assets of the Islamic Medical Association and its 28 branches nationwide and the Rabaa al-Adawiya medical association, it announced in a statement.
It also sacked the associations' boards of directors and appointed new boards, headed by former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa. The Islamic Medical Association, founded in 1977, had 30 hospitals, almost 2000 doctors and over 3000 nurses and employees, according to its official website. The association said it treated over two million patients annually.
The steps by the Egyptian government threaten to further ruin one of the few organisations that provided good medical care to broad segments of the Egyptian population, including the poor. State spending on public health in Egypt, measured as a percentage of GDP, has, according to the World Bank, remained below 2.5 percent for years. Doctors striking in 2011, demanded for that reason a dramatic increase in public health spending to 15 percent of GDP and better security for workers at hospitals, (which were frequent targets of thieves after Mubarak’s fall). Alongside the budgetary austerity in the Mubarak years, there has also been a wave of privatization. The new for-profit hospitals in the market are far superior to their public counterparts but so expensive that only the wealthy can afford a stay there. The result is that most Egyptians are forced to choose between the impossible and the intolerable.
It was precisely the dearth of affordable health care options for the growing middle classes that spurred the establishment of the Islamic Medical Association in the late 1970s. As a largely middle-class organization, composed of university graduates and professionals, the Muslim Brothers were not only acutely aware of these problems, but well positioned to address them. According to ‘Abd al-Mon‘im Abu al-Futouh, an early IMA doctor and later member of the board of directors (he has since left the organization, as well as the Brothers and was one of the candidates for the presidency), the association was founded “because at that time we saw two systems for medical care in Egypt: the governmental, weak, fraying system, and the investment [private] system, which was for the rich. So the people had a problem.... Most people, not just the poor, had to go to the free medical service, the governmental one. It was humiliating. But it was not just the poor. If it’s a judge who is sick, who can consider him a poor person? Or even a new doctor like me at that time? If someone like this has to go to the free service, he’ll be humiliated. He can’t go to private hospitals because he doesn’t have money. So the reason behind establishing [the IMA] was offering this medical service, providing decent care for an appropriate cost.” The statistics bear this point out: Although IMA hospitals do offer discounted and free care to the poor, these patients account for a minority of those treated. In the fiscal year 2010-2011, for instance, “poor patients” were only about 4 percent of the total number seen at IMA facilities across Egypt.
The Brotherhood affiliated hospitals, schools and other welfare institutions were one of the reasons why the Brotherhood fared so well in the last elections that took place in Egypt. The Brotherhood was also one of the few organisations that was able to provide adequate help during disasters. During the earthquake that struck Cairo in 1992, for instance, the Brotherhood was much faster and much more effective than the government in providing tents, blankets, medical care, bottled water and food.