Hospital patients left to swelter

Seven hospitals in the Algarve, Alentejo and the centre of Portugal are still waiting for air conditioning units to be fitted, two years after being promised them by the Ministry of Health.  Ironically, some hospitals are scheduled to be fitted with the units at the end of the summer, while the remainder were informed that they will be equipped within the year. In the meantime, patients will not only have to cope with their afflictions, they will also have to suffer through the hot August temperatures.

Luís Filipe Pereira, Health Minister under the former government, announced that the Évora District Hospital, Portalegre, Fundão, Elvas, Cova da Beira as well as Barlavento and Faro District Hospitals would be equipped with air conditioning systems. The heads of the hospitals attribute the delay to a lack of funds and the bureaucratic process. Some of the hospitals are anxiously awaiting court decisions to provide funds for air conditioning because, in some cases, the entire hospital needs to be equipped, something which can cost up to a million euros.

In the Algarve, Faro Hospital’s orthopaedics and surgery departments do not have air conditioning and there are even more departments in the Barlavento Hospital struggling to keep cool.  The concerns are exemplified in a study produced by the office of the Director-General for Health, which revealed that in August 2005, 462 Portuguese died, mainly elderly, because physically their bodies were unable to cope with the effects of excessive heat.