Lack of specialists sees Algarve patients transferred to Lisbon

The Algarve’s two state hospitals, in Faro and Portimão, were once again forced to send patients to Lisbon for treatment this week due to an acute lack of available specialists.

The department involved is orthopaedics – which at one point had no doctors at all available, claims national tabloid Correio da Manhã.

Talking to the Resident, hospital director Dr Pedro Nunes said the shortage is “nothing new” and that the transfer of patients actually ensures that everyone gets treatment on time.

“It is not ideal,” he said. “But the alternative would be people needing operations lying in bed and waiting. That would be much worse. This way, we send patients up to Lisbon, with their injuries “immobilised” so that nothing should go wrong, and then they return once they have been properly treated.

“The state pays the ambulance. There are no extra costs involved. But, as I say, it is not ideal. We are waiting for more doctors. We have asked for the health ministry to offer doctors financial incentives to take up positions in the Algarve, and we wait in hope that this will happen.”

Another reason for the current shortage is that three orthopaedists have recently left the state service for private practice, one “died” and another “doesn’t work anymore”, he said.

Nunes is himself coming to the end of a turbulent few years trying to reorganise the region’s hospitals while battling government cuts and “fairly constant politically-motivated criticisms”.

He has always vowed he would stay to the end of his mandate, which he has. And the improvements to hospital infrastructures are undeniable. Casualty beds have been increased, the spectre of patients piled up in corridors on stretchers are a nightmare of the past and praises for hospital response – particularly during the summer’s desperate bus crash which claimed the lives of four holidaymakers and caused multiple injuries in Albufeira – have come from authorities both here and abroad.

Nunes is working out his last month at the head of the Algarve’s hospitals, but the region’s struggle to attract good, qualified medical staff looks set to persist.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]


Photo: Algarve hospital boss Pedro Nunes has asked the health ministry to offer doctors financial incentives to take up positions in the Algarve