Santarém Hospital

Doctor “refuses to attend unconscious octogenarian”

“Horrified” Santarém firefighters lodge official complaint

A team of sapper firefighters from Santarém have lodged an official complaint against a doctor’s refusal to attend an elderly man, brought into the town’s casualty department unconscious.

On a day when national news outlets are warning that “the crisis in emergency care” will undoubtedly exacerbate due to a strike by public sector workers, Correio da Manhã carries the story of a doctor refusing to treat an emergency “due to lack of health professionals”.

As the text explains, the doctor was on duty; the ‘patient’ was in desperate need of assistance. But the casualty service was ostensibly ‘closed’. Two phone calls had failed to give firefighters instructions on which hospital could receive them – thus they decided to go to Santarém district hospital (as it was there, even if some services were closed due to doctors’ strike over overtime).

On arrival at the hospital, the firefighters “were poorly received”, writes CM.

“Don’t you know this hospital is closed”, the doctor is understood to have said, or rather “shouted’ at them”. The paper’s front page says the doctor shouted: “What are you doing here with him?”

The 88-year-old man was unaware of the raised tempers, as he was unconscious.

CM says “whole the nursing team heard what was said by the doctor”.

Certainly, the Santarém sapper firefighters were ‘horrified’, says the paper – and have now sent their complaint to the station’s command, the Order of Physicians and the local municipality.

Santarém hospital administration has stressed that the elderly man “was triaged and attended immediately by the general casualty service of Hospital de Santarém”, thus clearly the doctors’ refusal was not taken on face value.

But as the firefighters’ told CM, they did not consider his response “an attitude worthy of a health professional”.

Said the firefighters: “It is inadmissible that a hospital of the capital of the district should reach a point where it is not providing healthcare in any situation”.

But this is what is happening, in what the Order of Physicians has already recognised is an ‘unprecedented situation’ in the history of Portugal’s SNS State health system. “Chaos in health system”, to follow…

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