Health minister Manuel Pizarro has been keeping a very low profile this summer, despite issues with the SNS health system. Image: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa
Manuel Pizarro's ministry receives red card: Image: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa

Hundreds of unfilled vacancies for medical internships in Portugal’s State health service “a red card” for government

Ministry of health accused of rank incompetence

Portugal’s Order of Physicians (Ordem dos Médicos) has cited the hundreds of unfilled vacancies in medical internships with Portugal’s SNS State health service medical as “a red card” to ministry of health, which it accuses of “incompetence and inoperativeness.

“These are very worrying figures that effectively reflect a great lack of concern and a job very badly done on the part of the Ministry of Health (MS),” said the Order’s president, Carlos Cortes, talking to Lusa about the results of the vacancies for access to training in medical specialities, in which more than 400 of the 2,242 remained unfilled.

Like the various medical syndicates, the Order is concerned about the lack of candidates for general and family medicine, which trains GPs, “a very important area in the SNS, a gateway for patients” signifying “great importance in preventing illness”.

He is also worried about the lack of uptake in internal medicine, “a pillar of the hospital response across all areas”.

Says Lusa, Cortes sees these results as proof that the health ministry has not carried out “the work that should have been done” to make the SNS “more attractive”. This is not a new problem. It has been building over the last two decades in which successive administrations running the health ministry have failed to train up enough medical specialists.

According to the Order, almost 6,000 places have been wasted.

“More than six thousand vacancies have not been taken up. Six thousand doctors is roughly the same as the number of overtime hours that are currently used in the SNS every year. Therefore, if the various governments had done their jobs properly, the SNS would certainly not be experiencing the difficulties it is experiencing at the moment. 

“This is no longer a yellow card, it is a red card for the actions of the health ministry, which has been incompetent in solving all the problems of the SNS,” Carlos Cortes continued, insisting that this ‘lack of attractiveness of the SNS’ is “a major signal of alarm.

“The Ministry of Health has been ineffective in attracting doctors – and we can see the bad work that has been done/ that has been developed. (…) The truth is that this has been handled with enormous negligence and incompetence”.

Cortes also criticised the “erroneous narrative, which doesn’t correspond to reality, that the Order itself has created barriers to the training of specialist doctors”, pointing out that the number of vacancies presented to the Ministry and not taken up shows “exactly the opposite.

“I’m very afraid of what might happen with the enactment of the new statute for the Order, in which competences are taken away, particularly in the field of training, and I think it’s clear to everyone today that the ministry of health does not have the capacity to come up with the best solutions.” 

Indeed the ministry’s inability to understand the concerns of syndicates and the Order has resulted in the impasse we have today, with hospitals staggering under a lack of available doctors – a crisis that Cortes and many others predict “will only get worse and worse”.

Source: LUSA