Algarve’s emergency services “bursting at the seams”

With over a million tourists flooding the region for the height of the summer season, accident and emergency services are reported to be ‘bursting at the seams’.

A situation witnessed every year, reports of ambulances taking over an hour to arrive are now doing the rounds of all the news services.

In response, health minister Adalberto Campos Ferreira is understood to have ordered immediate action.

How this will manifest itself will come clear over the next few days.

INEM (accident and emergency service) president Luís Meira is reported to be travelling to the Algarve today “to find immediate solutions to the problems” , writes tabloid Correio da Manhã.

Meantime, hospital boss Joaquim Ramalho is hiring agency surgeons to “assure Casualty assistance in Faro Hospital at weekends”, adds the paper.

The situation is made doubly difficult by resident doctors’ “refusal to work extra overtime in the A&E department from August 1”.

Predictably, hoteliers are ‘lamenting’ the crisis, saying it only serves to “give a bad image for tourism”.

According to CM, the worst affected areas are Albufeira and Loulé where emergency call-outs are simply put on hold due to the lack of available means and manpower.

Said António Zua Coelho, in charge at Albufeira fire station: “We just do not have enough vehicles. We have already had days where we have eight emergency calls ‘on hold’”.

To try and ease the problems, the fire station has now laid on two emergency motorbikes which are dispatched to call-outs ahead of ambulances – the idea being that people can be stabilised as they wait for their ride to hospital.

Reports being shared online suggest there are 44 ambulances available – which translates into just seven more than the fleet that habitually serves a resident population of 450,000 during the rest of the year.

The saving grace in this story is that we are almost in August, and this far there have been no reports of any tragedies caused by a delay in the arrival of emergency health services.

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