One doctor who has taken Portugal’s chronic shortage of health personnel into her own hands is Raquel Bandilla who is suddenly ‘famous’ for taking consultations in the street.
The medical professional has been assigned to the desperate communities of Alcorochel and Parceiros da Igreja in Torres Novas which lost their ‘regular’ doctor in February.
Since then, they have been assigned one doctor who comes only twice a week.
But this latest doctor is bucking the trend by cycling to work early – seeing people before the medical post opens for business – and working late.
She told SIC television news with eyes smiling behind her face-mask: “I have the right to see the sun rise and the sun set… I am very fortunate”.
Clearly not Portuguese – possibly Spanish or Latin American – she says, yes, she has been attending patients in the street, in order to ensure everyone waiting outside really does get seen (something that rarely happens in other health centres around the country).
The lack of facilities and resources doesn’t seem to have been any kind of obstacle for this woman who suggests the situation “motivates us to be better and realise that we need to adapt to what we have, and hope things will get better.”
The population is concerned, nonetheless, says SIC. Some have found themselves getting up to wait outside the Medical Post at 3.30 in the morning, simply to ensure they ‘get a place’.
Local António Carvalho says it is not unusual to find people “of some age” wrapped in blankets in the early hours, whatever the weather.
There is no lean-to shelter or structure of any kind under which people can wait. They simply wait ‘in the street’.
Some have attempted approaches to the health ministry, and ‘the entities in charge of the medical post’, says SIC.
“Tired of receiving no answers” a petition has been raised, demanding a more dignified form of treatment.
Clearly everyone is touched by Drª Bandilla’s dedication, but they would prefer to see a doctor in a consulting room, rather than huddled against the wind at the crack of dawn on the side of the road.