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National health will cost

PORTUGAL’S National Health Service will increasingly become a ‘pay for’ service in coming years, claims a leading economist.

The Minister for Health, Correia de Campos admitted last week that new fees for national health services, which are presently free of charge, will be levied on patients.

The services likely to carry charges include hospitalisation and some surgical procedures where patients return home immediately afterwards.

In an interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Campos said that the measures could be applied shortly, adding that the reasons were not purely economical.

However, the economist, Tavares Moreira, stressed, “Any type of increase in receipts will generate a reduction in expenses and reduce the number of patients using the National Health Service, encouraging them to take out Private Health Schemes.”

President of the Patients’ Health Movement Santos Cardoso, accused the government of being contradictory: “The patient does not and cannot choose how he or she is evaluated by the doctor (as would be the case in a private institution) and will have to pay,” he said. “It is a contradiction to levy a charge, and unacceptable that a service, that should be general and free, will now have to be paid for by patients,” he added.

The same opinion was also voiced by Castro Henriques, of the Patients’ Movement for Health Services, who said, “We already pay taxes for the health service when we are well, this measure is nothing short of privatisation through the back door.”