Rabat - A pediatric surgeon, known as the “poor people’s doctor” for helping hundreds of families treat their children, resigned Monday, July 23, from his position in the Tiznit Provincial Hospital, in a region 97 kilometers south of Agadir.
Rabat – A pediatric surgeon, known as the “poor people’s doctor” for helping hundreds of families treat their children, resigned Monday, July 23, from his position in the Tiznit Provincial Hospital, in a region 97 kilometers south of Agadir.
The hospital’s chief medical officer accused the surgeon, Mehdi Echafai, of insults and sued him for libel and defamation. Echafai had posted a video online in February in which he denounced his superiors’ moral harassment, the failing health system, and corruption within the hospital.
The lawsuit’s third hearing ended Monday, after which Echafai announced his resignation.
The pediatric surgeon explained his decision to quit because of “administrative problems” including corruption, “which scares the health system.”
In his resignation letter, he denounced the fact he was asked to give “illegal treatment” in his surgical duties, which negatively affected his family and health.
A video posted on Monday and widely circulating on social media featured the doctor announcing his departure while citizens begged him to stay.
The 34-year-old practitioner said he no longer wants to be part of the public health sector in Morocco, which suffers from serious anomalies and multiple deficiencies.
Echafai elaborated on his resignation decision for families hoping he would stay. “I’m tired, I can’t do anything anymore! The leaders have to shoulder their responsibilities, instead of threatening me with prison after all I’ve done. I operated more than 17 children a day, if Morocco does not want me, I will work abroad,” said Echafai.
A failing system
Before resigning, the surgeon regularly took to his Facebook page to denounce “the dismal working conditions,” and “the glaring lack of surgical material,”and “the laxity of the staff,” and “the corruption” within the Tiznit hospital.
The 34-year-old doctor discovered the dire situation of healthcare in Morocco while working in the Guelmim region south of Agadir. “I said to the Minister of Health that we, as young doctors seek to improve the situation because there are problems in the health sector and we want the Ministry to be able to make it better,” he said back in February.
The doctor submitted a complaint to the health minister to protest “corruption” on Wednesday, July 25.
Echafai deplored the “many dysfunctions of the health sector in general,” and the “corruption that is commonplace within the hospital center” where he worked.
The young doctor’s multiple statements to the media and on social networks earned him a review with the hospital’s disciplinary council of the hospital in March.
‘I am Doctor Mehdi Echafi’ campaign
At Tiznit Provincial Hospital, where he has been working since 2017, Echafai carried out more than 560 free operations for the poorest patients in 8 months.
Following his resignation, a campaign called “I’m Doctor Mehdi Echafî” was launched on social media to support the pediatric surgeon.
Many social media users have stood by the surgeon calling him a “hero” while expressing their disappointment to see him leave.
The doctor’s supporters have shared stories tracing the “exemplary” path of the practitioner and deploring his resignation that “deprived the people of Tiznit of a serious doctor, dedicated and honest.”
Moreover, to show their gratitude, hundreds of residents of Tiznit marched in solidarity with the doctor.
The protest, which was called by human rights and civil associations, coincided with Echafai’s trial hearing Monday at the Tiznit Elementary School.
Echafai said that since the beginning of his work, on June 20, 2017, he has observed the suffering of patients and felt unable to do anything but lose hope in the profession.