Birthing boycott starts to bite as nurses insist on “individual contracts for specialist knowledge”

The “birthing boycott” threatened over a month ago (click here) kicked into gear this week with two hospitals forced to transfer “high-risk pregnancies”.

According to reports, 28 hospital maternity units and nine health centres are now “on board”.

This is not a strike, explained nurses association leader Ana Rita Cavaco.

It is a case of nurses performing only the basic duties set out in their contracts – despite having specialist knowledge (which in every case they have paid to obtain out of their own pockets).

The idea is to force the government to issue “individual contracts” based on nursing skills – a change that will cost around €3.6 million a month.

Ana Rita Cavaco told reporters that the cost is “small change”, but up until now, the health ministry has refused to play ball.

Yesterday’s media exposure in which high-risk patients were transferred from maternity units in Aveiro (to Coimbra) and Guimarães (to Braga) succeeded in forcing talks which are said to be ongoing today.

As one nurse told TV cameras: “We take on the financial and personal costs of specialist training in obstetrics for two years, and we don’t receive any benefit”.

Liliana Pinheiro is one of 30 health specialists at Lisbon’s Francisco Xavier hospital who is not paid anything for her particular speciality, explains tabloid Correio da Manhã.

Meantime, doctors at loggerheads with the government over various issues have extended their deadline before new strike action to August.

Said Jorge Roque da Cunha, secretary general of the independent syndicate of doctors: “We have decided to give the government more time to reduce our workloads”.

It is a decision that comes with “great cost” for all involved, he added.

Doctors want a reduction of hours working in casualty per week from 18 to 12, so that the remaining six hours can be used performing planned surgeries or outpatient care.

The syndicate is also trying to reduce patient numbers for GPs from 1900 to 1550.

If they don’t get their way, however, “strike action is not out of the question”, said Roque da Cunha – suggesting a strike could be called for “the end of August/ beginning of September”.

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