“Donkey” doc digs in his heels

Amid cries for his resignation and news that off-the-cuff remarks calling colleagues “burros” (donkeys) are the subject of an investigation by the national doctors’ association, Algarve hospital chief Dr Pedro Nunes is standing firm.
“They are not going to get rid of me that easily,” he told the Algarve Resident at the weekend. “If anything, all this nonsense has just made me even more determined.”
Nunes’ comments followed reports that AMAL, the association of Algarve borough councils, was calling for his dismissal and that doctors were turning up for work in Algarve hospitals with pictures of donkeys pinned to their lapels in protest to being labelled “burros”, which in Portugal is used to mean “stupid”.
Online daily news service Sulinformação also revealed Nunes’ “donkey” comments were now the subject of an inquiry by the Ordem dos Médicos.
But the Algarve hospital director – himself a former president of the association – said he wasn’t “the least bit concerned”.
Indeed, the inquiry could only ever censure his remarks. It is extremely unlikely to even call for his suspension, the current president José Manuel Silva has conceded in an interview with Sulinformação.
Nonetheless, this latest storm in the politically-fired witch-hunt that has pursued Nunes since his arrival from Lisbon has impelled him to reconsider his strategy.
“From now on, I will concentrate only on the positive things happening in the Algarve – things we are doing, changes we are making that will make our hospitals better,” he said.
The 60-year-old ophthalmologist revealed he had actually tendered his resignation to health minister Paulo Macedo almost two weeks ago – but that the minister refused to accept it.
“I don’t want to comment about all the endless party-political manoeuvres. I am interested in improving health services and, whatever people like to say, our services in the Algarve are improving.
“Contrary to news reports, we do not have shortages of medication or vital material – and it is important that we stress this, as negative publicity could impact very badly on the economy.
“A Dutch person with diabetes, for instance, might think twice about moving here to live in the Algarve if he reads that the health services are in turmoil. It’s very sad that all the politically-motivated people don’t seem to appreciate this.”
Focusing on improvements, Nunes gave us two “hot health scoops”. The first is the introduction of a special INEM ambulance prepped for premature babies and manned by specially-trained paediatricians.
The ambulance will start working in March and is designed to support premature babies in the Barlavento region that may need rapid transportation to the special baby-care unit in Faro.
The second “good news” item is the fact that “while hospitals all over the country are cutting down on new beds, Portimão Hospital is actually introducing 27 more”.
Eighteen of the beds to support the casualty department are already on track, with nine others due to become available by the end of the month.
“And by the end of June, we will have the whole casualty department revamped and working properly,” he told the Algarve Resident.
“These are incredibly positive changes. We have already improved the situation at Faro Hospital beyond everyone’s expectations. You never find any patient languishing on a stretcher in a corridor anymore. That used to happen in Faro all the time. It was one of the worst hospitals in the country. It certainly isn’t that any longer.”
Reminding us that he has always been “teimoso” (stubborn), Nunes reiterated his message to politically-motivated opponents. “The protests and game-playing has simply made me even more stubborn. I am in for the long haul, and people better just get used to it,” he said.

Top 10 hospitals all in centre and north

As the ongoing health controversy continues, a report by the national school of public health (ENSP) shows how Portugal’s top 10 hospitals are mainly based in the centre and north of the country.
Taking the ranking by diseases, the best place for patients with heart problems is Centro Hospitalar de São João in Porto, followed by the Centro Hospitalar de Lisboa Central and Coimbra’s Centro Hospitalar.
Respiratory problems are best dealt with in Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto.
Trauma injuries get top marks in Tondela-Viseu and the Centro Hospitalar Tâmega, while the best units to treat tumours are Coimbra and Porto.
The Algarve received a mention for paediatrics. It is one of the top three centres in the country – with Porto and Lisbon pipping the CHA to first and second positions.