A damning report aired by SIC last week has exposed a state of “chaos” at the Portimão state hospital’s casualty unit, which is once again described as at its breaking point.
Patients are far more than the number of doctors and nurses, supplies are lacking and there’s a general feeling that health professionals and patients are left to their own devices, hospital workers told the TV station.
The shortage of human resources is reportedly so serious that doctors and nurses often only know a patient has died when families tell them.
“There are times when we have patients with terminal illnesses who are awaiting palliative care. And before we know it, they are dead. It is family members who warn us, because it is impossible to look after everyone,” a health professional told SIC, choosing to remain anonymous like all the others interviewed.
Hospital clothing for patients is also severely lacking. Patients are sometimes “completely naked”, except for a diaper and covered with just a sheet, says SIC. Hospital beds are also not enough to go around, leaving many patients to await treatment in chairs.
The lack of resources even affects water cups.
“Many times we have to give our patients water in urine sample containers,” a health professional said.
Staff members have warned their superiors about the dire situation but the response is that there is nothing they can do unless the region’s hospital administration board (CHA) in Faro gets involved.
A source from CHA told SIC that there has been a “peak in patient numbers” and that there is “pressure on medical teams”, though they said that the lack of resources has not been caused by delays in payments.
Meantime, Portimão mayoress Isilda Gomes is up in arms again.
She has contacted Health Minister Adalberto Fernandes to demand “urgent solutions” that will guarantee the return of “health services of excellence” to the town’s hospital.
Whether this means dismantling CHA remains to be seen. In 2013, the administration boards of Faro, Portimão and Lagos hospitals were merged to create one ‘super board’ for the Algarve, though the move was and continues to be widely criticised.
Luís Batalau, who ran Portimão Hospital before the merger, told SIC that the only way to solve these issues is to give the hospital its administrative power back.
Isilda Gomes merely wants the hospital to boast “excellent services” again.
“I don’t care if the board is called CHA or not. Three years ago, we had excellent quality health services at Portimão Hospital and we want them back,” she told Público newspaper.
As she points out, many health services such as cardiology have been moved out of Portimão and “have to return”.
Gomes added that Portugal’s health minister is a “determined person” and that she is confident that the “Barlavento (Western Algarve), which was heavily penalised, will be compensated”.
Last week in Porto, health minister Adalberto Fernandes said he and his ministry were still “studying various scenarios and looking at the Algarve’s health situation with caution”.
Gomes said she was reassured by the minister that he would make a decision by the end of the year.
Citizens protest this Saturday
Meantime, a group of citizens will stage a protest outside of Portimão Hospital on Saturday (December 10) at 3pm.
“The hospital is in a situation that is unsustainable, which means we all have to deal with this in a firm way,” one of the organisers, João Pires, wrote on ‘Portimão Sempre’ Facebook group.
He added that the protest is open to anyone, “no matter their political preference”.
“We should focus on the thing we have in common – the desire to have a better hospital”.