Hundreds of doctors sign open letter criticising political ‘intervention’

At issue is government’s proposal to revise professional statutes

Around 400 doctors have signed an open letter criticising the government’s proposal to revise the statutes of the Order of Physicians (Ordem dos Médicos) saying they believe it will jeopardise the quality of “care, medicine and the Portuguese SNS (national health service)”.

In the letter published today in Público, and signed by countless high-profile names, the medical professionals call on parliament to “pay the utmost attention” to the decree amending the statutes, which the President of the Republic has already vetoed.

The signatories call for the preservation of current standards of medical training, and the safeguarding of the independence of the Order, insisting that it has played a decisive role in the quality of medical practice and training over the last 85 years.

They also emphasise that the Order “reiterates its intention to validate specialist or other postgraduate training qualifications obtained in public services, as long as they maintain their high level of training quality”.

Throughout the letter, the doctors emphasise the role of the quality of medicine and medical practice in Portugal as well as the deterioration of the SNS. They list reports of closed emergency rooms, lack of access to operational emergency services, endless queues for appointments, with ever longer waiting lists for surgery, as well as ubiquitous lack of family doctors.

“It is essential to invest in the continuous improvement of healthcare for all and, at the same time, promote better working conditions, training and research capable of developing the healthcare system, fostering a culture of humanisation of services and, at the same time, greater transparency,” they argue.

By coincidence, the letter has been published on the day clinical heads of department at Cascais Hospital have resigned ‘en-masse’, in yet another show of State health care doctors’ discontent. The reasons given have been “the degradation of conditions of patient safety, and quality of care provided” due to a “serious lack of human resources, namely specialist doctors”.

President Marcelo vetoed the original government decree amending the statutes mid-December, when he embarked on a veritable veto-fest, in this case very much upholding doctors’ reservations.

The issue now is that if the government (still technically in an absolute majority) chooses to ignore all these entreaties, the decree can simply be ‘revoted’ on and reapproved, in which case the power of the presidential veto falls. ND

Source material: LUSA/ Correio da Manhã