health minister Manuel Pizarro
"There is absolutely no intranquility in this matter", said health minister Manuel Pizarro today. The DGS is in "full functions", as is its (officially retired) director general

Confusion as only candidate to lead Portugal’s DGS health directorate resigns

Association of health service doctors says directorate “under attack”

Late yesterday afternoon, the only candidate in the frame to take over from Portugal’s long-serving (already retired) director general of health ‘resigned’.

The reasons for Rui Portugal’s resignation are unclear – but Portugal’s ANSMP (association of health service doctors) ‘fears the worst’. The entity sees the situation as further proof that the institution (known here as the DGS, standing for general health directorate) is being purposely run down and losing powers.

ANSMP president Gustavo Tato Borges has gone so far as to allege “the greatest attack” against the DGS, which he sees as crucial to good State health care in Portugal.

“The DGS needs to be protected, it needs to be strengthened”, he told Lusa, today, admitting that he may well have to be a candidate for the job himself.

In Tato Borges’ eyes, the DGS was key during the pandemic, in terms of structure, and response. To be fair, outgoing director general Graça Freitas was very high profile in the early and middle stages of the pandemic – perhaps not so much towards the latter stages when the ‘vaccine czar’ arrived on the scene, and appeared to transform the country’s fortunes .

Since Graça Freitas’ retirement, Rui Portugal has been holding the reins. It was generally assumed he would be taking over.

But not only has he shown now that he won’t be, crucial areas of DGS control are raising concerns.

Says Tato Borges, “some vaccines are missing in primary health care” and it is already clear that there is a “lack of materials and equipment that used to be assured by the DGS”.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, many European countries “have been strengthening and reorganising public health”, following the lesson learned in the fight against Covid-19, says Tato Borges, but “in Portugal we are stuck”…

Minister for health Manuel Pizarro has done his best to suggest everything is running smoothly at the DGS, saying the entity is “in full functions” as is Graça Freitas.

Ms Freitas said late last year that she wanted to step down, but pledged to remain in place until a suitable replacement was found.

As this text went up online, the general medical council (Ordem dos Médicos) also called for a return to what president Carlos Cortes termed “stability”.

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