Dr. Karim Mahdy reveals significant facts about the medical sector in Egypt

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MEO had the pleasure to interview, Dr. Karim Mahdy, MSc of fixed and removable prosthodontics university of Manchester and assistant lecturer of fixed prosthodontics, New Giza University.

Mahdy’s rich background and wide scope in the medical field and educational sector makes this interview a must read piece.

Can you tell about your educational background and professional career?

I graduated from Ain Shams University in 2003, Faculty of Dentistry; received my MSc in 2013 from Manchester university and currently I work as assistant lecturer of fixed prosthodontics, in New Giza University.

In your opinion what are the main challenges that are facing the medical sector here in Egypt?

Well a lot of challenges are present, and let me clarify that the challenges that are facing the public sector are actually different from the ones facing the private sector. In the public sector, doctors have no financial incentives, lack of services for the patients, poorly qualified nurses and lack of continuing professional development for doctors, and let me explain that this is an extremely important point. Continuing professional development for doctors, is like a monitoring evaluative system applied in many European countries, each doctor every year has to take a certain amount of courses, with a certain number of credit hours and he or she has to sit for an exam to be evaluated! We definitely lack an efficient monitoring system here in Egypt within the medical sector.

As for the private sector, the problem is un-qualified doctors who manage to promote and market themselves quite well, yet lack the ethicalism of the profession, which have recently affected the profession’s integrity. Such actions targeting financial benefit rather than the patient’s needed treatment is the current dilemma regarding medicine from its humanitarian and business perspectives.

Speaking specifically about the dentistry field, we actually face a real problem, as the dental treatment is expensive, due to the high prices of materials used. We buy the needed materials in US dollars, and of course this is a real challenge especially nowadays after the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, and this has affected our profit margin as we buy expensive materials from abroad and we cannot actually charge the patient as the patient is charged in Europe or the USA. For instance, in USA, charging a dental crown costs the patient $1,000.00, which equals nowadays EGP18,000.00 ! Here if the patient undertakes the same procedures, with the same materials used, like ceramic crown, the patient pays around EGP3,500.00. So we end up actually working double the work we should be doing and this sometimes affects the quality of services provided.

Working as an assistant lecturer along with the medical field, how do you see the challenges facing the educational sector? Furthermore what are our points of strength?

Well I would say that there must be a fixed quota for the number of private medical universities and the number of students being accepted in either private or public medical universities. In fact universities, accepts a large number of students actually above their current capacity, especially the private universities, in order to make profit, and this for sure affects the quality of education delivered. Speaking specifically, about dentistry, I would say there must be more monitoring for the quota or the needed number of dentists. In fact due to the excessive number of dentistry faculties, around 40 private faculties of dentistry, however this is not yet applied! A cut off number of students is needed and a quota should be adopted. In fact, these criteria are applied in specific universities, Where a specific number just get accepted according to the need of the market.  These criteria should be generalized in other faculties as well.

Related to the points of strength, I need to mention that we do have in Egypt very well equipped, private dental faculties, even better than Europe.

I also believe that there must be a good selection criteria for the university professors, a good university professor, must constantly work on himself, and be up to date with the latest research in his field. Specific courses and training must be given to professors, workshops, and joining societies in order to have access to academic journals. Furthermore, a good university professor, closely monitors and continuously help the students. In England, for instance the director of post-graduate studies, sits with the students and helps them in every single dental case they deal with.

As for our points of strength in calibars, clinically and technically we do have good doctors, because too much practicing in the undergraduate level has an advantage, which adds to the experience of our doctors.

Is there a problem of anesthesia in Egypt?

In fact yes, there is a critical problem of lack of anesthesia in Egypt recently; at some point the substitute was anesthesia made in Egypt. The problem is that this type of anesthesia, which is locally manufactured, is actually expired! If you remove the wrap off the anesthesia tube, you will find that it is actually expired. It is not harmful to the patient, however it doesn’t work!! The doctor will need to give several shots during one procedure and this is not good for the patient as well, to take many shots!

Furthermore, there is the lack of imported medical materials within the market as well, not only anesthesia; there is a lack of dental crown materials for instance. Various imported medical materials also stay for a long time at customs which affects market requirements as well.

Another challenge, is the lack of options and various materials, and if the needed medical materials are found within the local market, traders and suppliers charge really high prices.

In your opinion, what are the points of strength of the medical field in Europe and if adopted here in Egypt, it will make a boost within the medical sector?

A new set of regulations started to be applied in Ain Shams University;  it was adopted in Kasr el Eini a couple of years ago. This new set of regulations is related to the medical post graduate studies department; the post-graduate studies department follows the British guidelines of education, which will definitely make a difference; in fact the post graduate studies department is actually improving.

What are the consequences you spotted within the medical sector, that took place following the floatation of the Egyptian pound?

The price of the materials used and equipment was tripled, and we cannot actually charge the patient according to this unreasonable jump. The black market and the lack of monitoring for vendors and suppliers is also another point. Suppliers, charge more on certain medical materials just because there is a lack within market.

Laser is becoming an important treatment element within the medical sector, what role does it play nowadays in the dentistry field? What are the other types of technologies employed?

Two types of laser are used in the dental field; hard tissue laser and soft tissue laser. Hard tissue laser, is expensive, its price ranges up to $120 thousand. It is painless, could be used for kids who are afraid to take shots.

Soft tissue is cheaper, and has wider applications, like removing pigments, dental bleaching and improving the gum state.

3D X rays is also another type of new technology used and 3D printing, doctors can print out the image of the patient’s mouth and it can do a proposal for the desired ideal look of the mouth. 3D is also used in dental implants.

In Egypt, we are moving forward and using these techniques.

 What is the advice you would give to patients in Egypt?

Well, many points in fact. First, the patient needs to have more awareness in the process of choosing his or her doctor. Furthermore, investing in one’s health is something very important, so a patient should not go to a doctor or a dentist, just because he charges patients less money. In fact, the market has several unqualified doctors.

A specialized doctor with a high educational degree, is definitely different than a practitioner with a bachelor degree.

Patients also should stop self-medication, it can be most of the time dangerous for the health; for example taking antibiotics haphazardly is not a healthy habbit at all.

So the criteria for choosing a doctor should be based on good research, doctor’s background, word of mouth, experience and reputation.

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