Bruno Maia, neurologist, and himself a doctor within the SNS health service, has written at length over social media today to say the upshot of this sad situation is that good health professionals will leave the service. His message is categoric: "Santa Maria's administrative board to the Health Ministry to the Executive Direction (of the SNS), they have all contributed to the dismantlement of maternity services in the largest hospital in the country".

Human chain to ‘save’ Santa Maria maternity unit

Calls for return of former leadership reinforced

At a time when the government is being loudly criticised for ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘arrogance’, a human chain protest has formed today outside Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital, illustrating some of the consequences.

Calling for the return of the leadership of Santa Maria maternity unit, staff and health service users, have engaged with reporters, highlighting a number of the unsettling ‘non-sequiters’ in this controversy.

First, there appears to be no need for the closure of the unit, as planned, for ‘refurbishment works’.

As ‘sacked’ former clinical director Diogo Ayres de Campos has told a parliamentary commission, the ‘refurbishment’ is more a remodelling, involving completely separate premises.

In other words, the current maternity unit could continue working as normal. But, no, the health ministry, advised by the second management tier CEO of which has recently been described as “a tyrant”, have ruled otherwise – ensuring that any dissenting voices (like Ayres de Campos) are dismissed.

And this is at the root of today’s protest.

As its organisers have told the television cameras, “this whole process has been a mess” at best, and “irresponsible” at worst – the latter because in closing Santa Maria maternity, patients are either channeled to the private sector (where doctors have claimed they are not prepared for them), or transferred to nearby S. Francisco Xavier Hospital, under reduced conditions.

All this when, according to readings other than those of the health ministry hierarchy, the unit could easily continue functioning as normal through the summer…

If this is indeed another allegation of political meddling – as Diogo Ayres de Campos has told MPs that it is – then it comes at a super-sensitive time for the government, already underfire for political interference in management decisions at ‘soon-to-be-privatised-at-a monumental-loss-to-the-public-purse’ airline TAP, and suffering a new casualty due to the corruption ‘scandal’ festering away at the ministry of defence.

Another shot this morning, taken by Lusa’s Filipe Amorim. The doctors themselves have stressed they are unauthorised to give statements.

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