The average time needed to wait for a specialist appointment on the SNS (national health) is now so far past “the maximum guaranteed by law” that it has become ridiculous.
Tabloid Correio da Manhã has compiled a list showing the actual number of days needed to secure an appointment, suggesting that in parts of the country it can take three years before patients are seen.
The ‘crisis’ hits every age bracket, including children.
Cardiology, for example, is one of the worst ‘offenders’. It can see patients in some areaswaiting even longer than three years (Penafiel, for example, where the wait for an appointment classified as ‘normal’ takes 1,307 days).
The crisis affects specialities differently.
In the Algarve, for example, worst hit are services like orthopedics (where patients whose needs are classified as priorities can still wait 1030 days). Urology also sees patients in Vila Real for example likely to wait 1,793 days.
The alternative for anyone who has the money is to see a specialist privately.
Explain reports, by ‘law’ a “high priority” case should have to wait only 30 days, a priority case 60 and a normal situation 150.
Specialists admit that, the current state of affairs means certain patients could quite easily die waiting for an appointment that could otherwise save their lives.
Bearing in mind cardiovascular disease is one of the principal causes of death in Portugal, the situation is “extremely grave”, Manuel Carrageta of the Portuguese Cardiology Foundation told CM.
As for the fact that even children waiting for a cardiology appointment can wait over 250 days, he said it was “unthinkable”.
“There are problems that need to be diagnosed early so they do not endanger life. We need more human resources”, he stressed, explaining the problem doesn’t lie with individual hospitals but with “whoever decides on the number of professionals to be placed nationally”.
The story came in a week when yet another maternity unit (this time in Beja) ‘ran out of obstetricians’, leaving mothers in labour having to be transported 80 kms to Évora.