Photo of the protest waged by doctors in June in a bid to save Santa Maria's maternity unit. Image: Filipe Amorim/ Lusa
Photo of the protest waged by doctors in June in a bid to save Santa Maria's maternity unit. Image: Filipe Amorim/ Lusa

Another six obstetricians resign from Santa Maria’s beleaguered obstetrics department

Trouble in obstetrics unit has been described as “political battle”

It seems the hospital no longer wants us here”. These were the words of Luísa Pinto, the former director of obstetrics at Santa Maria hospital who resigned yesterday, after 30 years of service.

What kept me here no longer exists”, she told Expresso, adding that if the hospital really does not want its obstetrics professionals “it is better that we leave with dignity”.

This is the latest ‘sorry pass’ involving the political battle which has already seen one of the most respected obstetricians in Europe ‘dismissed’, apparently simply because he queried a political reorganisation plan.

The plan, mandated by the Executive Direction of the SNS (the relatively new body responsible for day-to-day management of the country’s struggling health service), was actually questioned by various professionals, writes Diário de Notícias.

Since then, the department has been put under the control of a new pair of hands, and in the eyes of the outgoing obstetricians, working conditions are no longer safe (for health professionals or health service users).

A number of health professionals have already resigned. For Luísa Pinto the final straw came when she returned to work from her summer holiday and “was denied access to the carpark.

“The SNS is plummeting and I don’t know how it can be maintained when, when there is a service that works at a level of excellence, from a clinical, academic and research point of view, you do this to a team,” she lamented.

Contacted by Lusa news agency, a source at the Centro Hospitalar Universitário Lisboa Norte (CHULN), which is part of the Santa Maria hospital, confirmed that there have been requests for termination, but would not confirm the number of obstetricians who have taken this decision.

“We can’t confirm the number and we don’t comment on what are individual decisions by professionals,” said the source, stressing that the hospital centre maintains confidence in the teams in the field.

It has to be said that unhappy doctors in the obstetrics department have long accused CHULN’s board of directors of “arrogance and authoritarianism”.

BE (left-bloc) calls for hearing of Pizarro and resigning doctors

Bloco de Esquerda wants urgent clarification on the resignation of the six obstetricians. To this end, the party has asked for hearings in parliament of the doctors, the Minister of Health and the hospital’s board of directors.

According to BE’s request, the “situation in the obstetrics service at Santa Maria Hospital (CHULN) had been deteriorating for several weeks.

“The announcement of the closure of the maternity ward, which was neither communicated nor agreed with the teams, the dismissal of professionals by the Board of Directors due to differences of opinion, the false accusations of low ‘productivity’ by the teams who often worked 500 or 600 hours of overtime to guarantee the full functioning of the services, the forced relocation of these professionals to another hospital and the deterioration of care conditions, all contributed to this,” BE’s submission continues.

The left-wingers also recall that, in the face of this situation, BE “requested that organisations be heard, questioned the Ministry, called on the PS and the government to have common sense and abandon the path of destruction on which they were set (…) All to no avail. It seems that the arbitrary dismissals, the destruction of the team, the closure of the maternity ward, the deterioration of care, the vilification of health professionals, all of this was no accident. It was deliberate. A plan to be implemented, backed by the government, at the same time as the SNS was opened up to private maternity hospitals and more and more births were transferred to them.”

Source material: Lusa