Lisbon’s IPO “lives difficult days”
The crisis in Portugal’s State health system appears to be infecting every root and branch.
Today, reports describe the “difficult days” in the IPO, the country’s top public cancer hospital, in Lisbon.
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists have all put in ‘excuses of responsibility’ – logically suggesting patient care is at risk of being compromised, if not already being compromised.
There are simply not enough professionals to ensure adequate care.
This has been a refrain for longer than most people can remember, but now that doctors are adhering strictly to the legal hours of overtime permitted, it is much more relevant.
Last Friday, the IPO’s chief pharmacist resigned. Today, in the face of excuses of responsibility from all 22 pharmacists employed, the Order of Pharmacists has called for the intervention of medicines authority INFARMED “to guarantee compliance with good practice in the preparation of medicines”.
According to president of the Order, Hugo Mota Filipe, some of the stories coming out of the IPO indicate clear violations already of good practice, and “for this reason, we are obliged to send them to the authority that is responsible for the operation of hospital pharmacies, which is INFARMED”, he told Lusa.
The hospital has done its best to deny any risks to patient safety, but with so many stories suggesting the contrary, it is difficult to take denials at face value.
In fact, the arguments presented by doctors and nurses in pediatrics have been that conditions right now “do not guarantee patients’ safety.
“The night shift has been the greatest problem, since August, when capacity was reduced from 23 beds to 16, but the number of nurses was also reduced”, writes SIC Notícias.
“This means that in the event of a child needing to be transferred to another hospital, or have complementary tests carried out at another health unit in the early hours of the morning, only one professional is left to cover the shift.
“The doctors, who are only on call during the night, have also informed the hospital’s board of directors that, in addition to the lack of medical and nursing teams, there are obvious difficulties in accessing complementary means of diagnosis and treatment”.
Add to all this the statements made by health minister Manuel Pizarro today that unless doctors agree to ‘return’ to the practice of working ‘extraordinary overtime’ (hours well above those laid down by law), this crisis cannot be overcome.
“The minister said that the functioning of emergency services has always been ensured by the “availability of doctors to work a very high number of extra hours“, and that the ministry is not in a position “to guarantee that this will no longer be necessary”, explains SIC.
Thus, all eyes are on Thursday afternoon, when Mr Pizarro has summoned unions for another round of negotiations, but expectations for some kind of breakthrough are not running high. In fact, mutterings have already begun on the inability of Mr Pizarro to perform his function. Yesterday, soundbites were centring on the possible resignation of the CEO of the health service’s ‘executive direction’; today they are skirting around the possibility of Mr Pizarro having to be replaced (a scenario that is so much easier said than done. As commentators have stressed, there are very few people willing to join the government at this moment in which so little appears to be going in the right direction).