Health minister Manuel Pizarro (centre) in Faro on Monday; also pictured are Paulo Morgado from the Algarve Healthy Authority ARS and Secretary of State for Health Promotion, Margarida Tavares
Health minister Manuel Pizarro (centre) in Faro on Monday; also pictured are Paulo Morgado from the Algarve Healthy Authority ARS and Secretary of State for Health Promotion, Margarida Tavares Photo: MARIA SIMIRIS/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Algarve hospital construction tender to be launched in 2023

First steps towards new hospital taken “in the next weeks”

It was a promise made by Portugal’s Health Minister himself this week: the tender for the construction of the Algarve Central Hospital will be launched this year.

“I have no doubt that this will be the time we will have a new Algarve Central Hospital, as there is a clear decision from the Council of Ministers to resume the public-private partnership (PPP) process for the construction and management of the future hospital,” minister Manuel Pizarro told reporters in Faro on Monday.

Pizarro travelled to the region accompanied by Secretary of State for Health Promotion, Margarida Tavares, and Secretary of State for Health, Ricardo Mestre, as part of the ‘Saúde Aberta’ (Open Health) initiative, which aimed to put the Health Ministry bosses in direct contact with state-run health centres and hospitals and “get to know each unit and the investments that are underway”.

The initiative saw the team visit all 16 municipalities in the Algarve.

What the minister did not reveal was when the hospital will actually open.

“The tender will be launched in 2023. It is fairer to make a commitment about what is in our control right now. I will only commit to deadlines when I am sure I will be able to keep my word and, in this case, that means the launch of the tender in 2023,” the minister said.

The first steps towards this goal will be taken “very soon, in a matter of weeks and not months”, with the creation of a “technical team to guide the process and ensure that it is not due to a lack of response capacity of the administration that the (project) will stall.”

There are also plans to set up a monitoring commission involving the Algarve Municipalities Association (AMAL), the local community and local councils so that they can follow the new hospital’s construction process “very closely”.

The minister is aware that the people of the Algarve have heard this all before – the first stone of the hospital was even laid in 2008 by then prime minister José Sócrates (PS), and the project has fallen victim to consecutive delays and transformations.

“I am convinced that my method of continuous work and of regional political consensus is the method that will ensure that, this time, we will wait much less time. In the shortest amount of time possible, we will have the new Central Algarve Hospital here,” he said.

While he did not go into many details, the minister spoke broadly about the measures that could help attract more health professionals to the Algarve – one of the region’s chronic issues affecting public health services.

“Firstly, we have to expand the training of specialised professionals, especially doctors, and that has to be a continuous effort without any hesitation. Then, we have to build the new hospital, which will have the capacity to attract new professionals, and strengthen its link with the University of the Algarve and the Medicine course,” Pizarro told reporters.

The minister also provided a generic answer when asked which specialties can be expected at the new hospital: “Almost all of them”.

“I am not in a position to tell you with rigour the exact spectrum,” he said, adding, however, that the hospital will serve around half a million people and thus “must be a hospital with a high level of distinctiveness”.

Setting the Algarve Central Hospital apart from others will also be a factor to “attract health professionals” to the region, especially if the Algarve University Hospital Board (CHUA) works even closer with the University of the Algarve.

“I think it is that virtuous combination that will ensure that we not only have a modern, functional and comfortable new building with state-of-the-art equipment, but also more health professionals, without whom none of this will work,” he said.

Algarve Oncology Centre is “indispensable”

Manuel Pizarro was also questioned about the decision to have Algarve cancer patients being treated in Seville (Spain). He promised that the government will move forward with the construction of the Algarve Oncology Centre “sooner rather than later, as it is truly indispensable”. However, he called for “patience”.

“I understand the trouble of having to travel to Seville; the same still happens when patients have to travel to Lisbon or Coimbra.

“However, it is strange that a service provider in Seville is able to offer cheaper prices than a service provider in the Algarve, including travel costs. This just goes to prove one thing: we need a public response which will guarantee quality and accessible costs for the State and which, at the same time, protects the patient – that is our main goal,” Pizarro said.

Different measures for each borough

Having visited each municipality in the Algarve, the Health Ministry team said they will be coming up with different measures and concrete decisions for each borough, in the coming months.

“After speaking with mayors, health professionals and local communities, it became clear that the national health service (SNS) is irreplaceable, indispensable and a precious commodity,” Pizzaro said.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we leave the region with more responsibility and excited about the work there is to do – also because we are absolutely convinced that there is consensus among the 16 mayors regarding health priorities,” he said.

Mental health centre to open in Portimão

One of the stops during Manuel Pizzaro’s tour of the Algarve was Portimão, where he visited the new mental health centre which is due to open soon at the Parque da Saúde da Misericórdia, near the local health centre.

The space will be managed by the Mental Health Community Team of Portimão and Lagoa and the Psychogerontology Unit of the Algarve University Hospital Centre (CHUA).

Portimão Council has provided the facilities and carried out the renovations needed, while CHUA will be in charge of the staff and the equipment needed for rehabilitation activities and nursing procedures.

Original article written by Maria Simiris for Barlavento newspaper.