Algarve’s exhausted A&E nurses warn “we will make mistakes…”

Exhausted A&E nurses in the Algarve have signed their names to a letter asking to be ‘excused from responsibility for what might happen to patients’.

Addressing the missive to superiors at Faro Hospital, the 65 of the service’s 72 nurses claim there simply aren’t the ‘conditions’ to provide nursing care in safety.

It is not just a question of exhaustion due to the high season in which casualty admissions in Faro climb to around 300 people per day (on top of demands created by the pandemic). It is also because of “deficits in nurse/ patient and nurse/ doctor ratios”.

The letter warns nurses will end up making mistakes, while ‘waiting times’ for attention will be longer than they should be.

Constraints at Faro’s A&E department are habitual (click here). It could be that this year the situation is worse than ‘normal’. But the ‘excuse’ given by authorities is certainly very much the same.

The official mantra is that there are not enough nurses to go round.

Following the troika years when nurses emigrated en-masse (indeed were positively encouraged to do so), Portugal has reached a situation where it is running on empty.

According to Mariana Santos, the head of nursing at CHUA (the university hospital centre of the Algarve), while this is “frightening” “obviously all patients will receive attention according to their needs”.

This last assertion was given in interview with various news channels. It has been resoundly trashed by Ana Rita Cavaco, president of the Order of Nurses, who insists the service “does not have enough colleagues to care for the lives of everyone who comes looking for healthcare”.

A report by RTP news explains how some patients’ lives hang in the balance for “days and days”; others are left on stretchers in corridors for far too long, while even the process of releasing people is hampered. 

TSF radio says “the situation” has so concerned those in charge at Faro Hospital that they have sent emails to almost every nursing graduate in the country to ask them to come and work in the Algarve.

“The hiring effort has even crossed the border”, says the news channel. “The hospital administration says it has sent a request for help to the Spanish consul and the Spanish Order of Nurses, to try and find professionals who would like to work in the Algarve…”

Postal Algarve however suggests there is another side to this story. According to the online, Mariana Santos’ treatment of the nurses since they publicised their plight has been to “threaten them indecently”. The claim emanates from Ana Rita Cavaco who claims Ms Santos was upset with the way the nurses “exposed the problems and told the truth” without ‘respecting’ the hierarchy, ie CHUA.

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