Crisis in Faro A&E just got even worse…

The state of crisis at Faro state hospital’s rundown A&E department just got a whole lot worse.

Following on from last week’s boycott by surgeons of ‘extraordinary hours’ or overtime (click here), the eight ‘senior’ chiefs of the surgical team have announced a categoric walkout.

Starting on January 1, they will simply stop working at the department which they say “persists” in offering “unacceptable and degrading conditions” totally at odds with the requirements of emergency – all-too-often life-saving – medicine.

Explains Expresso this afternoon, the doctors have already cited the “systematic inexistence of beds for internment of the most urgent patients”, the “recurrent absence of access to an operating theatre in suitable time” and “systematic obstacles to the realisation of complementary diagnostic exams”.

These were the issues that led to the boycott of extraordinary hours.

But now that authorities have reacted to the surgeons’ protest “with apparent indifference”, ensuring problems continue, those with the most experience have “completely abdicated from the A&E” – something they are legally entitled to do once they have reached the age of 55 (which the eight heads of department have).

Expresso’s article highlights the ‘institutional nature’ of the health authority’s response. The paper was told “the problem will be solved in the way it has been up till now, with the hiring of agency doctors for more hours”.

Says the paper, authorities refused to comment on the specific problems outlined by the doctors.

Jornal Barlavento was at Faro Hospital this morning to report on the visit by president of the doctors association Miguel Guimarães.

Guimarães stressed that Faro’s massive problems “are probably the most urgent case in the country” in terms of the need for a new hospital.

No visitor to the complex can miss the fact that every service is struggling in conditions that are quite frankly obsolete – while the experiences of patients themselves are often harrowing.

Surgery chief Martins dos Santos told Barlavento that: “A&E surgery, due to the immense lack of conditions has led doctors to such a point of exhaustion that they simply cannot continue working”.

“Doctors have referred to this situation for more than a year”, he added. “They were promised changes that have not come about. Nothing has happened – thus exhaustion has hit the whole service”.

In line with Expresso, Martins dos Santos lamented the almost autistic institutional response that ‘the problem will be solved in the way it has been up till now…’ explaining agency doctors are not the solution here, and never could be.

He said surgeons who operate on patients, need to ‘accompany them’ in aftercare. This doesn’t happen with agency staff. “Their 24-hour shift ends, and they go to where they came from. The patient is abandoned – and this has legal implications”.

This is why surgeons refusing overtime this month have stressed they will not accept any responsibility for what happens to patients who are operated on by surgeons who do not belong to Faro Hospital.

The die has been cast, it is now a matter of what happens between now and January 1.

As Miguel Guimarães stressed today – and has been mentioned before – agency doctors receive anything from 40-50 euros an hour, while doctors contracted to Faro Hospital earn between just 12 – 17 euros an hour.

HOSPITAL BOSS AGREES: “FARO IS INADEQUATE FOR LEVEL OF CARE PATIENTS DESERVE”

Questioned by journalists from national media today, Ana Paula Gonçalves, president of the administrative council of CHUA, the authority overseeing the Algarve’s hospitals, wholeheartedly agreed that the situation in Faro is dismal.

She said: “surgeons just have one ward where they have to see between 30-40 patients and there are systematic difficulties in accessing operating theatres”. The lack of beds available for internment means patients ‘pile up’ in A&E, waiting…

In her 32 years of service at the hospital, Ana Paula Gonçalves says the “situation has never been so bad” and that now there are risks for professionals as well as patients, as the “capacity for discernment” of the former have been put at risk.

“Our hospital is truly inadequate for the kind of care patients today deserve”, she said. “We are not hiding this in any way, but it is not in our hands to do anything about it from one day to the next”.

What is programmed however is a plan of investments for 2020 which “will allow patients greater comfort”.

As to the discrepancies between pay for agency doctors and those contracted to the hospital, Ana Paula Gonçalves said she completely understands how these don’t sit well with permanent medical staff, but again, it’s not a situation in the hands of her authority.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com