Mayors protest over “intolerable” healthcare situation in Portugal’s holidaymaking Algarve

Holidaymakers to the sunny Algarve were met with a worrying protest this morning. Locals and tourists alike were presented with balsa wood medical spatulas as they approached Albufeira’s Praia do Peneco. The spatulas carried the message: “Take one, as you may not find any when you go to a casualty department.”
This was the second protest over the parlous state of the region’s healthcare units in two days.
On Wednesday, two mayors led a protest outside Loulé SUB casualty centre which, for the second day running, had been forced to close due to a lack of medical staff.
Behind the immediate problem of suspended working hours lies the threat that the unit may be shut down altogether.
As Loulé mayor Vítor Aleixo told journalists, the situation is “intolerable” and the Ordem dos Médicos (doctors’ association) added that the situation of healthcare in the Algarve could just “go on getting worse and worse”.
Aleixo explained his reasons for the joint-protest with São Brás de Alportel’s mayor Vítor Guerreiro: “The situation is extreme – and extreme situations require extreme on-the-spot answers.”
He said “the greatest fear” right now is that all the closures and medical hiccups in Loulé “were a portent of closure. I fear this. I don’t know there is foundation for my fear but what I see day-by-day is that the situation is getting worse and health services are being degraded”.
“Profound changes” are needed, Aleixo concluded, if the situation is to improve.
Meantime, the nursing syndicate followed up the mayoral protest at Praia do Peneco – leaving many passers-by with a sense of disquiet.
“I felt worried reading this,” Francis Viegas told Público. “Without stretchers, without doctors, without nurses, without material. I think it is very serious – somebody should be doing something about it.”
Foreign tourists might come on holiday with private insurance, he said, “but 90% of Portuguese may not know what is happening” in the Algarve, and might get caught out.
Viegas added that he was very glad he was going home on Sunday and had had no need to use a casualty department.
While the regional health authority, ARS, laid current chaos at the door of organisational glitches, the nurses’ syndicate has called for an urgent meeting with tourist chiefs, saying it is imperative that they warn people of the problems ongoing in Loulé.
Elsewhere, the Algarve remains short of at least 200 doctors, say news services. A shot-in-the-arm arrived this weekend in the form of 21 new nurses, and a further 22 are expected to turn up for work next week.