Borders Without Doctors

Egyptian medical students’ emails requesting university transcripts might be the most expensive one they ever send. Alexandria University recently put a 5,000 Egyptian pound price tag on medical graduates’ requests for transcript verifications. The verifications are required to study abroad or find a job outside Egypt, and the cost—more than $300—is about twice an Egyptian doctor’s monthly salary.

Egypt is bleeding doctors at a time when the country can ill afford it, and the exodus has been going on for years. In 2016, one parliamentarian sought to ban physicians from leaving the country unless they had worked for a decade in public hospitals. In 2020, another proposed that any doctor leaving the country must repay the cost of his or her medical degree.

While the Egyptian government is trying to prevent doctors from leaving the country, it isn’t doing much to encourage them to stay. A new medical graduate makes 1/6 the salary of a fresh law graduate working at the Ministry of Justice. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, hazard pay for doctors is only $1.20 per month (judges receive a hundred times as much). A new government program increases the hazard still further, pushing healthcare providers to make house calls to visit Covid-19 patients.

Physicians have turned to Facebook groups and YouTube videos to help each other find the shortest, easiest, and cheapest ways to emigrate. Band aid solutions won’t solve this problem.

This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.