locals have been so desperate for a GP that they mounted a vigil outside the health centre in January
Locals have been so desperate for a GP that they mounted a vigil outside the health centre in January. Image from https://jornaldascaldas.pt/

Health centre desperate for doctor forced to wait seven months

“Wealth of problems and difficulties” described as “shameful”

A parish council president has highlighted “shameful” delays created within the country’s health system that make even placing doctors in areas where they are desperately needed an almost Herculean task.

As Lusa explains today, “a general practitioner took office this week at the Atouguia da Baleia health centre in the district of Peniche, where there is a shortage of family doctors, after seven months of waiting for authorisation”.

Parish council president António Salvador (representing the PSD party, currently in opposition in government) calls the “immensity of time” it took to succeed in securing the GP “shameful”.

He cited the  “passing” of responsibilities between the West North Health Centres Grouping, the Regional Health Administration of Lisbon and Tagus Valley (ARSLVT) and the Ministry of Health.

Lusa makes no reference to the fact that the request came from a PSD parish council, part of an independent-led municipality, which may have something to do with the institutional sloth.

Deputy mayor Afonso Clara of the local independents ‘Grupo Cidadãos Eleitores por Peniche, for example, lamented the “wealth of problems and difficulties that got in the way”, not pointing the finger in any direction.

As it is, the new GP was only secured “after an agreement was reached between Peniche’s Santa Casa da Misericórdia charity and health-related entities”.

Had the Santa Casa da Misericórdia not stepped in, perhaps the little parish of Atouguia da Baleia would still be waiting. Explains the council, the protocol with the Misericórdia charity “is an opportunity to minimise the problem of the shortage of doctors”.

The local health centre is meant to have four doctors for the approximately 7,000 residents. Up until this week, it hasn’t had even one…

Last December (ie four months in to having no doctors at all), 26-hours per week were contracted to a service provider.

Contacting director João Gomes of the West North Health Centres Grouping, Lusa heard that of 183,000 registered health service users, 39,413 are without a GP – and of these, 12,000 are in the Peniche district.

João Gomes admitted that “the provision of primary health care is compromised”.

Source material: LUSA