Dozens of doctors, nurses and hospital workers staged a demonstration on Sunday in front of Cairo's renowned Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital to protest the hospital's scheduled relocation to Badr City, some 50km outside the capital.
The government has reportedly decided to establish Cairo Expo City, a planned exhibition and convention center, in the area in which the hospital currently stands.
The group of protesters, which included several representatives of prominent medical associations, carried banners reading: “No to sale, no to transfer, no to demolition.”
"This medical and educational building treats some 80,000 patients annually," said Dr. Abdel Moneim Abu al-Fatouh, head of the Arab Doctors Union, in reference to the hospital. "Why does the government insist on seizing the land on which it is situated?”
In 2004, former health minister Aly Abdel Fattah led opposition to a proposal to replace the hospital with a Carrefour hypermarket.
“The government acts only in its own interest while turning a blind eye to deteriorating public health conditions,” Mohamed Said, a nurse at the Abbasiya hospital, told Al-Masry Al-Youm, as his colleagues chanted, “We won't surrender, we won't sell, we won't give up the hospital.”
Mohamed Shata, the 80-year-old father of one hospital patient, described the institution's planned relocation as “inhumane.”
“If the plan is carried out, I won’t be able to visit my son as frequently I used to,” said Shata, who has visited his son regularly at the Abbasiya hospital over the past three decades. “The long distance will sever our close relationship, which will likely have a negative impact on his recovery.”
According to the Cairo-based Egyptian Center for Development and Human Rights, the planned relocation will place a heavy burden on the roughly 1,500 psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and administrators that currently work at the hospital. It also promises to impose extra financial and psychological burdens on the families of patients, the center noted, given Badr City's relatively remote location.
“The government has made significant headway in recent years in developing psychiatric treatment in Egypt," the center noted in a statement. "Why does it now want to undo these efforts by demolishing the hospital?”
In 2002, First Lady Suzanne Mubarak inaugurated two new buildings on hospital grounds devoted to psychiatric treatment, which reportedly cost a total of LE37 million. An LE8-million forensics unit and a National Council of Psychiatric Medicine were also established on the hospital's premises.
“If the regime doesn’t overturn this decision to relocate, the General-Secretariat of the Arab Doctors Union–along with other concerned medical associations–will file a lawsuit against it for human rights violations,” said Abu al-Fatouh.
The Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital represents the largest psychiatric hospital in the Middle East region. Its historical significance dates back to 1883, when it was founded to cater to patients in both the Cairo and Giza governorates.