RUI LOURENÇO, the president of the Administração Regional de Saúde do Algarve (ARS Algarve), the Algarve regional health authority, recently attended a meeting at the Centro de Saúde (Health Centre) in Silves, where he confirmed that the decision to close the Serviço de Atendimento Permanente de Silves (SAP), the 24-hour assistance unit for health users, is definite, emphasising that the reasons were technical, not economic. However, Silves SAP will not be closed until the related process is completed by the Ministry of Health.
ARS Algarve has clarified that the current national network of hospitals must be involved in the response to emergency situations and, in the case of the Algarve, the Faro and Barlavento (Portimão) hospitals are the only ones listed. The Ministry of Health wishes to centralise health services based on criteria such as facilities, equipment and staff.
The current network of hospitals is able to cater for the great majority of the national population, with apparently around only 450,000 people living more than a 60-minute journey away. In order to respond to this lack of access, basic emergency units are being introduced in certain Centros de Saúde and hospitals, in order to upgrade the network and improve accessibility to healthcare. A national technical working group, made up of personnel from the Direcção Geral de Saúde, the ARS and the Instituto Nacional de Emergência Médica (INEM), have been analysing the network according to the following parameters: potential demand, current demand, existing SAPs, road network and demographic information.
The overall aims of this analysis are to ensure that the patient has the fastest access to a health unit that is capable of responding adequately to his/her condition. The objective is to avoid situations where valuable time is lost at units that are not equipped to deal with specialist emergencies or that are unable to offer the patient adequate care for their needs.
With regard to the case of Silves, according to ARS Algarve, the nighttime SAP service, which is currently available from midnight until 8am, only attends to an average of seven patients per night, of which only 1.2 cases can be classified as real emergencies.
For this reason, the health authority believes that it is not necessary to keep the unit open after midnight and that any emergency cases should, instead, be directed to the basic emergency unit at Albufeira’s Centro de Saúde or to the Barlavento Hospital, both of which, it states, are under an hour away by car. ARS Algarve has confirmed, though, that the SAP service will remain operational between 8pm and midnight.
Silves Câmara is still not convinced that this strategy is appropriate for the people of the borough, as there are several remote areas, for example Azilheira, which the council believes are too far from Albufeira. The Câmara declared that the strategy does not cater to the legitimate interests of the people and goes against the Constitution, with regard to fundamental rights; in other words, the right to life and health.
Several petitions have already been sent to the Ministry of Health and public protests have taken place, one of which Isabel Soares, President of Silves Câmara, took part in herself. v