Doctors up the ante, saying hospitals at risk of collapse – due to staff in isolation

No sooner had health director Graça Freitas suggested measures to control the pandemic will be coming “in the next few months” (click here), than doctors have upped the ante – saying they need to come now.

The reality is that hospitals throughout the central district are at risk of collapse – not because they are overrun with sick patients, but because they have multiple staff members at home, perfectly well, but in DGS enforced isolation.

The situation is worst in Aveiro, Coimbra, Leiria, Guarda, Castelo Branco and Viseu, says the general medical council.

It is proving a day of muddled messaging – but according to the central regional section of the general medical council both the hospital centre of Leiria and the hospital centre of the Baixa Vouga have around 100 healthworkers unable to work as they sit-out positive test results at home, or have been forced into isolation due to contacts of risk. The hospital centre of Tondela-Viseu has close on 60, and the district hospital of Figueira da Foz, 16.

“The university hospital centre of Coimbra is also facing the absence of hundreds of professionals, which is causing a lot of serious constraints.

“This is a situation to which the Minister of Education cannot be oblivious, in this very delicate moment”, president of the regional section Carlos Cortes tells Lusa.

One solution would be for the health ministry to return to allowing “flexible hiring of health professionals” to make up for the most urgent necessities (as went ahead during the worst period, in terms of illness, of the pandemic).

“The health ministry has to intervene; we have returned to the risk of collapse of assistencial response”, he said – saying specialities in the direst need are Surgery, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and A&E.

But another solution would be to “reevaluate measures on the isolation of people infected with the virus but asymptomatic; infected people with light symptoms, and people who are in isolation by dint of having had contacts of risk (within their own families)”.

This second solution is being pushed by multiple sources, but has not yet received positive response from health director Graça Freitas.

Says Carlos Cortes, it is “essential” that DGS criteria on isolation are “urgently reviewed” and “much more rapid and adequate monitoring of the illness” moves forwards.

Sloth, in terms of response, is a reaction that keeps coming up, both in national and social media.

A recently-recovered Covid patient posted this today on her Facebook feed, and it is worth reading:

13 Things I’ve learned about Covid (in Portugal)

  1. Self-tests work but only after you’ve been ill for 2 days. This gives plenty of time to pass on the virus.
  2. Vaccinated people can pass the virus on – even when they have no symptoms.
  3. Vaccines are not as effective after six months, if effective at all. In the last month, when you are waiting for your booster, do not let children (or anyone) blow into your face.
  4. Do not bother to call SNS24. You’ll never get through and it will raise your already high temperature. You can register your positive test on the helpline by inserting loads of digits (which will also raise your temperature but this has got to be done so you can get your PCR – via nasal violation – free).
  5. You then have to begin isolation. Except you have to go and do your PCR which means breaking your isolation.
  6. Try to do your PCR as soon as you can before you feel too ill to do anything as you only have 7 days.
  7. You probably won’t be able to do a PCR  anyway before you feel really ill as the clinics are all full and you can’t get an appointment. Never mind. Brace.
  8. Hole up somewhere warm for 10 days and ask a friend to do some shopping. If you don’t have a friend and you don’t break isolation, you will probably die.
  9. Drink as much as you can – lemons, oranges, ginger, honey, herbally teas, vitamins D and C. Take 3000 mg of paracetamol and 1200 mg of ibuprofen a day. Eat. Brace.
  10. Ignore the baby elephant on your chest as much as you can. Sleep as much as you can.
  11. If you can’t breathe, open the window.
  12. If you still really can’t breathe, call 112. Do not attempt to call SNS24 as it will just make you feel even lonelier and raise your temperature again and cause you to gasp and cough.
  13. Do not panic. You probably won’t die. Message a friend (speaking will be too complicated).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com