Faro hospital among nation’s best for clinical excellence

New rankings for the country’s hospitals have put Faro in seventh place, “up with the big boys” for the first time ever.

Three years ago, the hospital did not figure anywhere near the top of the list that evaluates Portugal’s hospitals on the basis of 14 specialities.

But far from crowing over the accolade, hospital boss Pedro Nunes says it means very little to him.

“I don’t comment on these things,” he told the Resident. “What is important to me are facts – like our ability to respond to a catastrophe, as the region saw recently with the bus crash that injured so many Dutch tourists.

“We had ambulances on the scene within minutes; doctors working on the ground within 15 minutes; our emergency response was exemplary, and, as everyone saw, the tour operator involved went so far as to praise the hospital for the way we reacted.”

Other “important facts” are the realities that last winter Faro was the hospital that registered the least number of mortalities. As Nunes told us, this is all down to improved levels of care that have developed since he took charge as regional administrator three years ago.

The punchy ophthalmologist has said it many times, but the spectre of patients lined up on stretchers in Faro’s corridors had been a habitual hospital drama before he came onboard.

Now, even in the peak of flu epidemics, you will not find one patient in corridors.

Casualty beds have been increased along with the environment of professionalism.

“More than anything, I think this proves my contention that you need to have medical experience to be able to properly organise a hospital,” the 61-year-old former president of the country’s doctors association explained.

“Hospitals are not factories. They can’t be run by business managers.”

Nonetheless, Nunes’ efforts to improve Faro, and the rest of the region’s hospitals and health units, have had their share of controversy – with endless “head-butting” sessions that have even seen the doctors’ association he used to run declare his position was untenable.

In February last year, the Algarve association of borough councils went so far as to call on health minister Paulo Macedo to sack Nunes – but the furore slowly dissipated, with the hospital boss known for being “stubbornly determined” always maintaining it was a politically-motivated witch-hunt.

The tide began to turn in May last year, when tourism bosses praised the hospital for its improved cardiology unit, saying anyone who came to the Algarve will be “comforted to know” that they will find a service here “as good as anywhere else in Europe”.

And Nunes’ improvement plans are set to continue, he assured us – with another increase in the number of casualty beds, further extensions to the cardiology department and a reorganisation of surgical wards.

But will he be around to see the changes? It’s a question he does not want to answer.

Back in 2013, Público suggested a move to the ACSS (the health system’s central administration) in Lisbon – and, in the past, even in the thick of controversy, Nunes has always said he would stick out his position in the Algarve to the end of this government’s mandate.

Thus it remains to be seen what happens to this wily hospital administrator, but for now his efforts in Faro have put yet another feather in the cap of the region as it faces the heat and advancing crowds of another full-on summer season.

Other “excellent” hospitals
Ranked above Faro – which registered clinical excellence in 11 specialities – came Hospital de Gaia (No 1 with a 14-point rating), Viseu, Braga, Garcia de Orta (Almada), Coimbra and Guimarães, all of them scoring 12.

The list that features 28 of the country’s hospitals was elaborated by the nation’s health regulator (ERS) on the basis of in-house inquiries that take place throughout the year.

The country’s two largest hospitals – São João in Porto and Santa Maria in Lisbon – are not on the list for the reason that the first “declined evaluation”, reports national tabloid Correio da Manhã, while the second would only have scored a nine in the 14 specialities under consideration.

“On top of this, Santa Maria hospital did not get top scores in the categories of patient safety, installations and comfort,” the paper added.

Intriguingly, when it came to private hospitals, CM reported that Lisbon’s Red Cross Hospital “did not obtain clinical excellence in any area except that which applied to installations and comfort”.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]