Child cancer hospital investigation sends shockwaves through Egypt

Updated 17 July 2018
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Child cancer hospital investigation sends shockwaves through Egypt

  • The hospital receives donations of up to 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.6 million) every year, but it pays no more than 160.2 million for the treatment of the children annually
  • Many have questioned the legality of the gag order, given that such directives are usually issued by Egypt’s public prosecutor

CAIRO: With its modernist glass buildings shining over the Cairo skyline and pioneering medical practices admired around the world, Egypt’s leading child cancer hospital had become a source of national pride.
But more than 10 years since the institution was founded on a wave of goodwill, the hospital has become embroiled in a public slanging match that threatens to tarnish its reputation.
Named 57375 after the bank account number set up to accept donations, the hospital was built from and operated by financial contributions from the public, wowed by an impressive fundraising campaign.
Since its establishment in 2007, it has been cited as an exemplary institution in terms of treatment and professionalism, with its round-the-clock efforts to host more and more cancer-stricken children earning wide acclaim.
But last month, Wahid Hamed, one of Egypt’s most famous screenwriters, launched a scathing attack on the hospital’s director Sherif Abu El-Naga.
In a series of columns in the privately-owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, Hamed hurled many accusations against Abu El-Naga, including mishandling of the hospital’s finances and placing his own relatives in key positions.
Hamed said that his shocking columns aimed to “stir up a hornet’s nest at the hospital.”
“The hospital receives donations of up to 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.6 million) every year, but it pays no more than 160.2 million for the treatment of the children annually,” Hamed wrote in one of his columns.
He also said that the hospital’s leading officials received hefty salaries, which were not compatible with a charitable institution, and questioned its policy of spending “hundreds of millions of pounds” on television ads.
Hamed was known for his anti-government views in the 1990s when corruption was rampant but is now widely viewed as a pro-state figure.
Abu El-Naga has largely remained tight-lipped, but the hospital issued a statement saying it had examined its own records and found that the accusations were “utterly false and confuse public opinion.”
The hospital hired outspoken lawyer Mortada Mansour, who is also the chairman of Cairo’s popular sports club Zamalek, to defend its interests.
As a result of the allegations, the social solidary ministry launched an investigation into any possible corruption at the hospital.
The Supreme Council for Media Regulation, a regulatory body, imposed a gag order on publishing any news on the matter until the investigation has concluded.
Many have questioned the legality of the gag order, given that such directives are usually issued by Egypt’s public prosecutor.
The 57357 hospital has always boasted of a recovery rate of more than 70 percent, but critics said that this has been mainly down to what they call the hospital’s unjustified policy of only agreeing to treat cases that are not at an advanced stage.
The latest accusations have divided opinions, sparking fierce debate on social media.
“My baby girl was treated at this hospital three years ago. Everything was perfect, literally everything. A five-star service and we paid nothing at all,” Karima El-Sawy, a 32-year-old housewife, told Arab News.
“My girl was 100 PER CENT percent cured, thank God. This is mainly down to the professionalism of this hospital. I don’t know how anyone can attack it that way without providing a single piece of evidence for their claims.”
El-Sawy said that there were many corrupt institutions in the country that could be attacked, but instead people had gone after the one that has always been viewed “as an example to follow.”
When contacted by Arab News, most of the parents whose children had been treated at 57375 spoke positively of the hospital, voicing very few reservations about how it operated.
But others called for more government oversight of the hospital.
“I do not doubt the integrity of the hospital officials, but any such institution must be supervised — not managed — by the state,” said Gamal Akram, a 27-year-old whose young brother was treated at the hospital last year.
“It’s the money of the people at the end, so we must know how they spend it. It’s totally our right; there is nothing wrong with that.”


Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

A handout photo released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on January 20, 2019 shows Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (C) during his trip to the southern city of Basra. (AFP)
Updated 40 sec ago
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Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

  • Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s exclusion from US sanctions on Iran and allowing it to import gas and electricity will not ease the pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government, Iraqi politicians and officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Mass demonstrations are planned for later this week in the Shiite-dominated southern provinces to protest about the lack of basic daily services including electricity and drinking water, high rates of unemployment and corruption in ministries and government departments, activists told Arab News.
Iranian energy and natural gas imports amount to about 4,000 megawatts per day, equivalent to 20 percent of Iraq’s total production.
The US three-month extension waiver allowing Iraq to import Iranian gas and electricity is expected to dampen some of the anger and give Abdul Mahdi’s government a chance to find more radical solutions to the electricity shortage caused by terrorist actions, lack of planning and government corruption over the past 15-16 years.
People in Basra plan to take to the streets on July 20, activists told Arab News.
“Unemployment, scarcity of electricity and potable water and corruption are all still in place and none have been addressed despite the fact we have been protesting every year,” Sheikh Raied Al-Fraijai, the head of Basra tribal council and one of the Basra’s key activists, told Arab News.
“We will demand the dismissal of Abdul Mahdi and his government,” he said.
Electricity supply from the national grid does not exceed a 12-hour-a-day average during the summer, when temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius. This is one of the most powerful engines of the demonstrations, which usually turn violent and lead to clashes between protesters and security forces.
Last summer demonstrations extended to most of the southern provinces and Baghdad. There were massive riots, especially in Basra and Amara, where government and party headquarters were set on fire, as well as the Iranian Consulate. At least 22 demonstrators and security personal were killed.
Controlling the demonstrations and preventing Iraqi political forces from exploiting them is one of the challenges facing both local governments and activists.
Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests and inciting demonstrators to attack members of the “Savage army,” a term used by Daesh to describe the Iraqi army.
“This game (the circulation of the leaflet) aims to give the necessary cover for the local government in Basra to target us,” an activist told Arab News.
“Now they (local officials) have a good pretext to come after us. They can easily say that we are belong to Daesh or just say these are aimed to provide the cover for sabotage and targeting security forces.”