General strike by Lebanese physicians
Lebanon, Politics, 9/9/1999
More than one thousand physicians from the hospitals of the capital Beirut and other areas rallied in their white uniforms at 11.30 a.m. (Lebanon local time) at al-Najmah square at the request of the physicians unions in Beirut and the north in protest of the decision taken by the military court to jail three doctors for five days under the accusation of a "criminal act of negligence," that resulted in the death of a Lebanese army soldier, Khalil Hama, on August 14.
All routes conducive to the Parliament were crowded by doctors in their white robes, and among the first arrivals at the site was Lebanese Parliament member Walid Jumblatt, who told reporters that this incident "is unprecedented, the doctor is not a criminal, the physicians trade unions and the doctors are protesting against a random behavior (of jailing the doctors) and their move (the strike) is not politicized. It is needed to protect the doctor and the patient, simultaneously. It is also need to protect what is left of the country of the law and the establishments."
The striking doctors gathered around their chairman, Dr. Ghattas al-Kouri, in al-Najma square together with other Lebanese parliament members, the chairman of the physicians union in north Lebanon and a representative of the pharmacists' union.
The doctors, who observed a sit-in, called for approving a proposal of a vocational immunity law pertaining to practicing medicine, and they raised banners on which were written: "Justice is in improving the level of medicine," "Do you know that medicine is a message?" and "The main issue is immunity."
Commenting on the strike held by the Lebanese physicians, Lebanese Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss said, "We honor views of all. Permitting the freedom to demonstrate was the only decision taken by the government after its formation. ... this issue (malpractice immunity) is the specialty of the law and that the law is independent and has taken its own say."
During his meeting with a crowd of doctors and workers in the health field, the Lebanese public health minister Karam Karam expressed his concern over the "reserve custody of the three doctors," stressing "althoug such a measure is permitted in the law and is legalized, yet it is more preferably that such a measure will be taken after the court takes a final decision."
The chairman of the Physicians Union in Lebanon, Ghattas al-Khouri, told the Lebanese daily al-Safir that the strike carried out by the Lebanese physicians on Wednesday was the "first move for demands in the history of the union."
He added, "Since I assumed office, I have been calling for a health system that first ensures protection for the patient. And that without such a health system law all what we are doing is futile."
He added that the death of the late soldier was a clear-cut evidence on that the law is violated as he had been admitted within 48 hours to four hospitals before he died, which means he even did not rest on the grounds to be given a chance so that the doctors would be able to treat him.
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