Faro Hospital (Photo: Sara Alves)

Doctors’ strike delays surgeries in Algarve

Around 93.5% of doctors are on strike

Non-urgent surgeries and outpatient appointments are being postponed in the Algarve due to a strike called by the Independent Union of Doctors (SIM), which started on Wednesday and runs until tomorrow.

Around 93.5% of doctors have joined the strike, the union’s regional director João Dias told Lusa news agency yesterday.

We are being pushed by the government into a situation we tried to avoid as much as possible. There is increasingly less capacity to respond in operating rooms and consultations due to the shortage of staff, and I don’t know where this will end. But the government is not managing to solve the problem this way,” Dias said.

According to João Dias, the operating rooms at the Algarve University Hospital Centre (CHUA), which includes Faro, Portimão, and Lagos hospitals, are running on minimum services, and all non-urgent surgeries are being postponed.

“Many of these patients have been waiting for a consultation for three or four months, or five or six months for surgery, and now they go home waiting for it to be rescheduled. The problem is, we don’t know when it will be rescheduled because there are already other patients scheduled for the coming weeks,” he said.

The union leader also pointed out that doctors are being trained in public hospitals only to “leave for the private sector” later on because year after year, professionals are becoming “disheartened” and end up thinking that it’s better to move to the private sector.

“The Algarve must have enough capacity to meet the needs of the population it serves. It cannot be in a situation where it lacks dermatologists, haematologists, endocrinologists, and where the orthopaedics service is at its bare minimum.,” Dias said.

The union representative also stressed that gynaecology and obstetrics are “reduced to a third of the staff”, while paediatrics units in Portimão and Faro are sometimes left without a single paediatrician.

“We have patients waiting for surgery in Algarve who can’t get a response. And what kind of agreement is being made? Agreements are being made with hospitals like Riba d’Ave (in Braga), which is the furthest place in the country; there couldn’t be a place further away, except for Spain,” he lamented.

According to João Dias, doctors are striking “not only to achieve better conditions and attractiveness for professionals to stay in the National Health Service (SNS) but above all because they want the country to have the necessary conditions to respond.”

Doctors started a three-day national strike on Wednesday to pressure the government to present a concrete proposal for a salary grid revision, which the Minister of Health promised to send to the unions on Monday.

Called by SIM, the strike is taking place simultaneously with a strike by family doctors on overtime work, which started on Monday and will last for a month.

By Michael Bruxo

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