Algarve nurses at breaking point

Around 7,600 overtime hours worked this year

The Algarve’s overworked nurses are reaching breaking point, particularly at Faro Hospital’s A&E unit, having already worked 7,600 overtime hours this year.

The warning comes from Nuno Manjua, head of the regional branch of the Portuguese Nurses Union (SEP).

“It is humanly impossible for so few nurses to attend to an average of 300 people per day. The biggest problem is that nurses are leaving the many services of the hospital centre (CHUA) due to poor working conditions,” Manjua told Rádio Renascença.

Over 10 nurses have left Portimão’s A&E unit since the start of the year and seven have resigned from Faro’s A&E unit last month alone – among them “respected nurses who have worked for several years at the units”.

But as Manjua points out, “a nurse who has been working for 20 years is earning the same wage as a nurse who has just graduated from university, which, of course, leads the former to want to leave.

“You cannot replace a nurse with 20 years of experience with another who has just finished university,” the union boss adds.

According to SEP, there is just one nurse at the triage desk of Faro Hospital’s A&E unit when there should be three. The unit should also have “at least 100 nurses” when, at the moment, it has just 75, it adds.

“We cannot continue like this, especially when there is no recognition at work. We are running out of nurses at primary health services as well. There is a chronic nurse shortage of around 500 in the Algarve. We are the Portuguese region with the lowest number of nurses,” Manjua alerted.

To address the issue of the Algarve’s understaffed hospitals, CHUA has asked doctors and nurses at state-run hospitals to voluntarily cancel/reschedule any holidays they had planned until September 30, with the promise of being paid three times more during the time they were due to take their holiday.

Manjua said that some nurses did accept the proposal but said “much more is needed” and also criticised CHUA’s “lack of communication”.

“We have not met with this administration in over a year because they do not schedule meetings. It is an antidemocratic stance. Up to now, there has never been an administration that has gone so long refusing meetings,” the regional head of SEP said, adding that the union has, meanwhile, requested an audience with the Minister of Health.

By Michael Bruxo
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