Investment in health falls by 33%
Fernando Medina Image: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa

Investment in health falls by 33%

For every €10 promised, only €1.2 spent over last seven months

With the nation’s press focussed on the €2 billion ‘support package’ for families expected to be announced by the government tomorrow (Monday), Expresso’s weekly edition has run with the headline that State spending within the health sector is crashing.

For every €10 promised by the government, only €1.2 was actually spent during the first seven months of 2022.

Could this be much more behind the decision by the health minister last week to resign? We may never know. But elsewhere former health minister Leonor Beleza has been alluding to the “extremely invasive control” on the sector exercised by the Finance Ministry under Fernando Medina, stressing the form in which the health service is run (and financed) needs ‘structural changes’… fast.

Latest figures from the ‘general budget directorate’ (Direção-Geral de Orçamento) show that public investment in health has fallen by 33% compared to last year “notwithstanding that the budget for 2022 is 2.5 times LARGER than the amount invested in this area in 2021″ says the paper.

“Up till July, the SNS (State health service) only invested €68.5 million, compared with the €102 million up till July in 2021. In other words, it spent an average of less than €10 million per month.

“The budget for SNS investment was substantially reinforced to €589 million in 2022 compared to the  €232 million invested throughout 2021. Nonetheless, you would need to multiply by more than 10 the current rhythm of investment for users and health professionals to benefit from these amounts before the end of the year”, the paper continues.

“The amount invested between January and July corresponds to just 12% of what was originally budgeted for this year. At the current rate, investment in the SNS runs the real risk of coming in below 2021, compromising not just the quality of care provided but the execution of European funds, like Portugal 2020 and the PRR (Plan for Recovery and Resilience”.

Expresso outlines various construction projects throughout the country that still have to get off the ground – not even mentioning the long awaited Central Algarve hospital, which PSD opposition politicians fear will once again be shoved into a back drawer.

European funds have expiry dates

Expresso stresses the SNS has been allocated €1.4 billion in PRR funding – but this is dependant on moving forwards with the various projects due for this investment by 2026

Thus the incoming minister (whoever that might be) will have an enormous agenda to get through, and that is if structural reforms come through that will actually give him/ her greater freedom to make decisions.

If not, the bottom line is fairly depressing. 

According to Leonor Beleza, talking last night at the final dinner of the PSD ‘summer university’ that has been held in Castelo de Vide (Portalegre), the new ‘SNS health statute’ (designed to give the service greater autonomy) still leaves it at the mercy of the Finance Ministry (which will decide annually on its budget). 

In the former minister’s opinion this insistence on central control is a form of ‘perversion’. She told her audience “there is enormous distrust on the part of the Ministry of Finance in relation to what the Ministry of Health does. Everyone knows that this mistrust exists. I just don’t know if everyone knows to what extent there is a thorough and extremely invasive control”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com