More than 1,000 doctors write to Health Minister refusing to work extra overtime

Doctors stuck in ‘negotiations impasse’ over pay and conditions

More than a thousand doctors signed a letter sent today to the minister of health warning of their unwillingness to work more than the mandatory 150 hours a year if the negotiations impasse remains.

Speaking to the Lusa news agency today, Helena Terleira explained the document was sent to the email address of minister Manuel Pizarro’s office.

It was signed “by a total of 1,045 doctors from all over the country, 187 of whom work at the Alto Minho Local Health Unit (ULSAM)”, she said.

The government has actually brought forward the next meeting with medical unions. It had been scheduled for September 11, but is now taking place on Thursday September 7 “in order to speed up negotiations, close this dossier and publish the diplomas”, a source for the health ministry has told Lusa.

The trouble with this perspective is that it is not shared by doctors unions, SIM (the syndicate of independent doctors) and FNAM (the national federation of doctors).

Both have told Lusa that their expectations for next Thursday are “very low”.

The collection of signatures for today’s Open Letter was initiated by the ULSAM doctors on August 19 and expresses “unwillingness to work more than 150 hours of overtime if the meeting scheduled between the Ministry of Health and the medical unions does not include proposals that value the medical career and consequently the SNS national health service.

“We realise the consequences of this form of struggle and the serious constraints on the functioning of hospitals, particularly emergency services. We are also responsible and very resilient doctors. We will only use this form of struggle if we have to. It’s up to the Minister of Health, who is also a doctor, to write the rest of the story,” said Helena Terleira, herself a doctor at Santa Luzia hospital in Viana do Castelo. 

She added that “ULSAM doctors have already handed in September emergency service schedules without overtime” – as a result there are shifts without internal medicine and general surgery coverage.

“We ask colleagues who have joined or are about to join this measure to inform their respective service directors and the boards of directors so that they are aware and can act accordingly,” she said, regretting that at a time when management is discussing a major restructuring of the SNS, “human resources on which the SNS depends are so devalued”.

Without a medical career, fairly remunerated and valued, there is no reform that will save the SNS,” she stated the obvious. 

In August, when the collection of doctors’ signatures was beginning, Lusa contacted the ministry of health to be told: “The Ministry of Health is deeply committed to the negotiation process with the doctors’ unions. The Ministry of Health takes good note of this (initiative), but since the negotiation process is underway, it would be inappropriate to make a public statement about it”.

Source material: LUSA