The TIP pediatric ambulance service was not available in Portimão last Friday

Inquiry opened into death of British baby at Portimão Hospital

Regulatory authorities override stance taken by INEM/Ministry of Health

Health regulators ERS and IGAS have announced an inquiry into the death of an 11-month-old British baby in Portimão Hospital last Friday before he could be transported to a pediatric intensive care unit.

Early reports on the tragedy suggested INEM/ the Ministry of Health did not believe an inquiry was needed. The reasoning being that “all clinical and technical means had been made available” to try and ensure the baby’s survival.

But this was not a view shared by the syndicate of pre-hospital emergency technicians, nor of the Independent Syndicate of Doctors.

The crux of the situation centres on Portimão Hospital’s decision to transfer the baby to a specialist pediatric intensive care unit in safety. This was not possible, because the inter-hospital pediatric ambulance (TIP) was inoperational – and Faro’s pediatric intensive care speciality without pediatricians.

A possibility of transferring the baby to another hospital, further afield, was also hampered by the fact that the other ‘nearest’ TIP was occupied in another emergency.

Roque da Cunha, president of the Independent Syndicate of Doctors, has stressed: “This is something that requires a careful and demanding inquiry so as not to jump to precipitous conclusions”, adding that “instead of trying to find reasons for this tragic occurrence, the Ministry of Health has to create conditions so that there are pediatricians in the Algarve to overcome this type of problem. Over the last couple of years there have been more days with a shortage of pediatricians in A&E departments. Very often, when the A&E is available, the doctors on duty are not pediatricians” – a situation that appears to have happened on Friday.

On Sunday evening, television reports were insisting that everything possible had been done for the child, and that there was no need for an inquiry. But this changed between Sunday and Monday as pressure for an inquiry built, and further details came to the surface.

The baby had been admitted to Portimão Hospital earlier in the week, with what was diagnosed as bronchitis. According to reports, his parents returned to the hospital on Friday at which point “doctors discovered he had septicemia”, which went on to fatally affect his heart.

Perhaps the comment that changed the decision from ‘no inquiry’ to opening one was that carried by SIC Notícias, attributed to a source at the hospital, who said that “there is a seasonal plan that will be implemented for the summer period, in order to increase response, integrating primary health care, hospital care and INEM”.

For now ERS (the health regulatory entity) and IGAS (general inspectorate of health activities) have issued a joint statement on their administrative and inspection process which, they say,  “will allow for full clarification of the facts”.

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