Dr Ahmed Alarabi.
Tripoli, 31 May:
A series of unfortunate and disturbing incidents have recently occurred in medical facilities in both Tripoli and . . .[restrict]Benghazi.
Doctors have been assaulted, dragged into hallways and – in some extreme cases – kidnapped by militant groups. These acts, which are completely out of control, not only expose the level of chaos in some hospital and medical facilities, but also highlight the absence of security for those who are working night and day to ease the suffering of patients.
In all parts of the world health professionals must perform their duties in safe and secure environments and anyone who tries to make that environment unsafe should be liable to prosecution.
It is a pure responsibility of government to guarantee a safe workplace for medical professionals and indeed, it is one of the most simple duties that should be guaranteed by government in order to protect health sector staff from violence and harassment.
Many doctors left their families and answered the call of duty to join and work hand-in-hand with the front line against Qaddafi’s forces in last year’s uprising. Their aim was to liberate Libya piece by piece, but some of them fell in battle and others were captured and executed in cold-blood by Qaddafi mercenaries in some of the most horrible war crimes. Those heroes deserve better recognition and respect; the irony is that all the foreign medical professionals that came to help during the war were surprised and admired the great quality and courage of Libyan doctors.
Many of those Libyan doctors sacrificed their lives in order to remove a bullet from an injured brother fighter, and yet, those who were brothers yesterday are behaving differently today. Why?
The rise in intimidation and violence directed at doctors over the past year is a disturbing phenomenon which needs to be addressed and a comprehensive solution found.
We know that there is an insufficient number of trained and professional security guards. There is also a lack of laws to protect doctors, and this too must be addressed immediately. The ministry of health must push the government to pass a law for the protection of doctors and make any violence against them a non-bailable offence.
Security guards must be under direct supervision by the interior ministry in order to provide the support and the training required. There should also be doctors’ unions which would implement more effective rules to protect the rights of doctors and not function merely as a source of statements and a coordinator for strike action. Disarming the militias is also a necessary step to take to protect not only doctors, but also patients and all citizens in general.
The continued violence against doctors may ultimately lead them to reconsider working in such dangerous situations, and compel them to go abroad in order to find an environment that provides security and safety for doctors.
All Libyans must understand that we are working as a team at this time to build our country on principles and values rather than on hate and aggression. Any violence and assault on any employee who is providing services to the public is an unethical and divisive act, and must be punishable by law and condemned by society.