medical drip
Image: Unsplash/ Insung Yoon

Chaos in Portugal’s health system

“If you have a heart attack in Nazaré this weekend, nearest hospital will be 100 kms away…”

The chaos created by doctors’ refusal to carry out more than the legally stipulated hours of overtime is now too difficult to gloss over. Yesterday’s Bank Holiday, which many citizens will be using to take ‘a long weekend’ off work, has simply exacerbated failings, to the point that very few hospitals are working ‘properly’.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã gives some examples: “If someone suffers a heart attack this weekend, and is in Nazaré (where international big wave surfers are already gathered for some of the autumn’s swells), they will have to travel more than 100 kms to Coimbra for medical assistance in hospital. The nearest hospital, Leiria, 38 kms away, does not have a doctor available to maintain the ‘via verde coronary service’, designed for urgent heart attack cases.

“In the Minho region, between this evening and Monday morning, Viana do Castelo’s casualty service will be without general surgery. Whoever needs general surgery will need to be taken to Braga hospital, which is without its habitual emergency obstetrics/ gynecology service from 8am today until 8am on Monday”.

And so it goes on. In the south, emergency pediatrics/ obstetrics merry-go-round continues. “What was meant to be transitory, has become the norm”, writes Público – meaning citizens needing these the expertise of these services will often have to travel many kilometres more than they used to for emergency care.

Constraints in hospital services, because of doctors’ unavailability, will overload those hospitals to which people are redirected”, the paper adds.

Carlos Santos, the director of Coimbra University Hospital, for instance “fears the increase in pressure on the service will translate into longer waiting times and less quality of care, because resources are not unlimited”.

A couple of years ago, nationals were encouraged ‘not to get sick in August’. Now, they really need to try not to get sick at all.

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