Doctors want negotiations to continue despite ongoing political crisis
The Independent Doctors’ Union (SIM) announced today that it will maintain the strike against overtime work in primary health care services and is calling for negotiations with the Ministry of Health to resume.
SIM general secretary Jorge Roque da Cunha told Lusa that the union has sent a letter to Health Minister Manuel Pizarro this morning asking for negotiations to resume.
“From the moment that the president of Portugal announced that the dissolution would not take place immediately, and even evoked the guarantee of the need for economic and social stability, there is no sector more pressing, with the instability and crisis that we are experiencing, than the health service,” he said.
Roque da Cunha said he hoped the minister would be able to respond “objectively” to the SIM’s letter, recognising that it would be “very difficult” to reach the agreement that has not been reached in the last eight years of government and in the last 18 months of the negotiation process with the Ministry of Health.
“But given the seriousness of the problems that the health service is going through, given the fact that we won’t have a government until June next year, I think it would be possible at the 25th hour to try to reach an agreement with the government in order to mitigate the very serious problems that patients are going through,” he said.
The SIM decided to maintain the strike against overtime work in primary health care, which, according to the union leader, has been joined by around 70% of doctors, depending on the regions of the country.
“It’s a strike that’s been very well attended, not least because primary care doctors are very overwhelmed with work,” he said, noting that this stoppage fundamentally harms users without a family doctor, or complementary care, and contributes to “greater pressure” on hospital emergency rooms.
In a statement, the SIM expressed “its firm determination to find solutions in favour of the health of the Portuguese, despite the current political situation”.
As the current government remains “in full office”, the union considers that “there is no justification, neither formal nor financial, and even less ethical, to prevent negotiations with doctors”, which it says is “imperative and urgent”
For the SIM, the government must “assume its obligations and resolve the problems that exist” and cannot “ignore them and push them off to another government”.
“Not to do so is to leave the population without answers. Not to do so is to insist on the degradation of the health service. Not to do so is to jeopardise the future. A serious agreement is needed. To fail to reach it is to turn our backs on responsibility,” the statement emphasises.
The last meeting between the Ministry of Health and the medical unions was scheduled for last Wednesday but was cancelled after Prime Minister António Costa resigned.
On that day, the Minister of Health had declared in parliament that negotiations with the medical unions would continue, saying that he had not yet given up hope of reaching an agreement with the doctors.
Also today, the National Federation of Doctors (FNAM) called for an immediate resumption of negotiations with the Ministry of Health.