Half of patients in State hospitals found to be “undernourished”

A study undertaken in 22 State-run hospitals has found two out of four patients is at risk of malnutrition. Many of these see their condition worsen during internment.  

On discharge, they often receive no support from any authority, and thus their health declines to the point they are re-admitted.

Aníbal Marques, president of Portugal’s nutritional authority, is calling for an end to this vicious circle by investment in nutritional care which he says would cost surprisingly little.

He told Lusa that the situation right now is that hospitals “invest in extremely expensive medication” and “spectacular interventions” but forget to ensure patients eat what is good for them.

The result is a scenario where Portugal exceeds the European average for patients at risk of malnutrition (the EU average is one in three), and this costs the State 255 million euros per year.

The way ahead however is fraught with logistical problems: there aren’t enough nutritionists to roll out a system of nutritional support, and doctors are too stretched already to take on any further ‘roles’.

Says Marques, there has to be a long-term strategy and political will. Even so, results could take years. But he stressed that pulling patients out of risks of malnutrition would hugely improve their quality of life, and ultimately save the state around 166 million euros.

“For every euro invested in nutritional therapy, the State would save 1.86 euros”, he said.