Algarve’s health system improved

THE NUMBER of utentes, people registered at the Algarve’s health centres (Centros de Saúde), without a family doctor has reduced significantly in the last three years. At the moment, the percentage of utentes without family doctors is only eight per cent, compared with 11 per cent in 2001.

According to the numbers revealed by the Algarve’s Regional Health Administration (ARS), the turnaround is due to the elimination of more than 16,500 utentes who were either registered mistakenly or who have since died, as well as the employment of more doctors.

Until recently, the data was based at each health centre, which led to utentes being registered at more than one health unit. But now, with the set up of a single data unit, it has become possible to ask utentes to opt for only one health centre.

From the beginning of March, the ARS plans to contract a another nine doctors for the region’s health centres to decrease the number of utentes without family doctors.

Also rising is the number of external consultations in the Algarve’s hospitals, with Faro and Barlavento Algarvio hospitals registering 50,000 more consultations than in 2001, an increase of 26 per cent. With regard to health centres, there was a 10 per cent increase of outpatients and a reduction of the number of people going to the SAP (Permanent Attendance Surgery). According to the ARS, this is an “indicator of quality” because it means that there was an “increase of accessibility in consultations at health centres”.

New technology introduced

The ARS is to spend 1.3 million euros on new computer equipment for health centres in Faro, Albufeira, Loulé, Portimão and Silves, in a bid to modernise the management and communication procedures. The new equipment will be installed in doctors’ offices, and nursing and administrative sections. The project, which was approved under the Programa Operacional de Saúde, the operational health programme, is scheduled for completion in spring 2006. The objective of the scheme is to improve communication between health centres, hospitals and the ARS healthcare services. In the first phase, the ARS intends to link the Centros de Saúde to the region’s main hospitals through video conferencing and telemedicine technology.