Egypt government hospitals appeal for Ramadan donations to tackle coronavirus crisis, as 'financial mismanagement' bites

Egypt government hospitals appeal for Ramadan donations to tackle coronavirus crisis, as 'financial mismanagement' bites
Egyptian charities have launched appeals for donations to help the country's struggling state hospitals amid the coronavirus epidemic.
3 min read
14 April, 2020
Egyptian media has been flooded with advertisements encouraging zakaat towards hospitals [Getty-file photo]
Egyptian charities have launched an advertising campaign to encourage Ramadan donations this year to go directly to state hospitals treating patients suffering from Covid-19, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported on Tuesday.

The campaign brings into question the level of support Egypt's health sector is receiving from Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's regime and a lack of transparency about government expenditure, as the deadly coronavirus sweeps through the country.

Egyptian media outlets and social networks have been flooded with advertisements from local charities encouraging zakat - an Islamic pillar of donations to the less fortunate - towards government and university hospitals at the forefront of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Critics view the campaign as evidence that Egypt's public hospitals lack the government funding needed to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Medical professionals have also sounded the alarm about alleged corruption and financial mismanagement within the country's healthcare sector affecting doctors' abilities to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Hospitals attract the bulk of donations stemming from year-round fundraising campaigns during the holy month, which are usually advertised through local media.

This year, charities are urging donations to help towards medical supplies and patients' needs, as the coronavirus epidemic sees thousands more patients admitted to already overwhelmed hospitals.

However, an unnamed official at Abu Al-Reish pediatric hospital in Cairo alleged that these donations - which are estimated at billions of Egyptian pounds - are instead going directly to some hospital officials' bank accounts.

The official also told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that the Cairo-based children's cancer hospital 57357 - which is entirely funded by donations - has no oversight as to where the charity funds go.

In 2018, an investigation was launched to look into alleged financial mismanagement and corruption at the hospital, according to Egyptian media.

Citing a lack of capacity, most hospitals accepting donations allegedly practice favouritism in choosing admissions, with treatment and operations only granted to a small amount of patients, the anonymous official told The New Arab.

The official called for more rigorous administrative and financial control of hospitals that crowdsource funding.

He added that medical supplies should be provided by Egypt's health ministry, with donations going towards assisting low-income patients.

Egypt's higher education ministry also launched a campaign calling on citizens to channel their zakat donations towards university hospitals that are treating coronavirus patients.

Read more: Comment: As coronavirus spreads in Egypt, Sisi puts the truth on lockdown

Dr. Adel Hussein, a professor of urology at Ain Shams University, told The New Arab that donations are considered to be "painkillers", not solutions to university hospitals' financial constraints.

Another leading medical professional in Egypt described hospitals' dependence on donations as "shameful", viewing it as an admission of the government's failure to help its citizens in need.

"Where does the state factor in providing medical services?" the doctor told the Arabic service. "And if these donations stop, will the patient find someone to treat them?"

As the Covid-19 pandemic overwhelms hospitals around the world, Egypt's health sector, which is reportedly underfunded, is no exception.

Egypt witnessed dozens of health workers testing positive for Covid-19 this month alone.

Last week, Egyptian authorities closed Sadr Dikirnis Hospital in the Dakahlia Governate for three days after dozens of doctors, nurses and radiologists tested positive for Covid-19.

Earlier this month, three doctors and 12 nurses at Egypt's main cancer hospital were quarantined after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

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