Patients and staff at two Lisbon hospitals “at elevated risk” due to exposure to degraded asbestos

Expectant mother with ‘at risk’ pregnancy transferred to private sector

CUF obstetricians have already said they don’t have conditions for ‘low risk’ pregnancies…

In the wake of a leaked Whatsapp message describing how the government’s pregnancies protocol with the private sector is on dodgy ground, news comes of an expectant mum with a ‘risk’ pregnancy having been transferred from Lisbon’s State maternity unit at Santa Maria hospital to CUF Descobertas private hospital.

As Público stresses, the decision “contradicts what was announced on Sunday and corroborated by the minister of health who reiterated that “programmed and temporary transfers are focused only on referenced low-risk pregnancies”.

This particular instance involved an expectant mother with gestational diabetes, described as ‘controlled’.

According to sources at Hospital Santa Maria, the decision to transfer her to private hands was put in writing by the director of obstetric services.

The CHULN hospital board (initials standing for the Lisbon north hospital centre that includes Santa Maria), has refused to answer journalists questions on whether this means the criteria for transferring pregnant women has changed since last Sunday, saying that for “legal and ethical questions” it is unable to furnish details on individual cases.

A statement from the hospital said: “CHULN can only guarantee that clinical and safety requirements are scrupulously analysed and met in all referrals articulated with private units, and these decisions are made in close coordination between physicians and institutions involved and with the National Institute of Medical Emergency.” 

None of the above would be relevant were it not for the fact that leaked a Whatsapp message from two obstetricians at CUF has shown that the service does not have the full complement of specialists required.

Their messages, shared widely among colleagues within the CUF chain of hospitals, highlighted reticence in continuing to receive pregnant women from the State sector: “We think that minimum standards of good practices/ clinical safety are not being met to maintain our emergency service in its current form, with just two obstetricians”.

The focus of the message was to see staffing levels increased. But Público has since reported that a statement from CUF Descobertas has said it “does not agree with this report, which does not reflect the clinical practices implemented in the maternity ward” of this hospital (on the obstetricians’ concerns), stressing that the hospital has “all the appropriate conditions for the provision of medical care in total safety”, and therefore maintains the “availability and commitment to support public maternity hospitals in the Lisbon and Tejo Valley Region”.

The problems that have led Santa Maria’s maternity unit to requiring this transfer agreement with CUF persist, with doctors still assigned to the unit continuing to demand the restitution of their sacked bosses. According to Expresso, 75% of the team available will be taking holidays through August. In other words, if problems and demands are not addressed, the situation at Santa Maria is only likely to get worse.

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