National medical congress stirs-up hornet’s nest of problems within health sector

More Portuguese doctors than ever before want to emigrate; more want to take early retirement – and worse, regional president of the doctors association Miguel Guimarães claims more untimely deaths have resulted from state health service cuts than the eight publicised last year. The country’s medical crisis shows no signs of calming, Guimarães told reporters on the eve of the National Conference of Doctors, taking place in Porto this week.

“Over the last six years, many doctors have left the SNS (state health service) because conditions have been so degraded,” he explained.

“The troika imposed a cut of €550 million, but health minister Paulo Macedo wanted to go further and cut €1.5 billion.

“It is impossible to offer the same care with a budget that is 5.9% of GDP, as we saw last winter.”

Referring to the eight deaths in casualty of people waiting to be seen, Guimarães said: “These were just the public cases. There were others. It is lamentable that the health service body in charge of investigating archived the processes.

“In the final analysis, clinical directors, administrative chiefs and the minister should have been held responsible.”

Guimarães’ comments came on the day President Cavaco Silva finally ceded to growing pressure and appointed Socialist leader António Costa as Portugal’s new prime minister.

According to the doctor, the next government will have a tough job on its hands to revert the tendency towards centralisation that even this week has seen 11 casualty departments condemned to closure.

“The health budget will have to increase to 6.6% of GDP,” he affirmed. “All parties agree with this.”