New incentives promised as doctors continue to spurn Portugal’s ‘problem areas’ (including Algarve)

Attempts to lure Portugal’s better-qualified doctors and specialists out of city centre comfort zones and into problem areas like the Algarve, Castelo Branco and the northern Alentejo have this far fallen flat – with only 20 being placed since August last year.

Reacting to news that the scheme put into place by former health minister Paulo Macedo last August did not yield results, his Socialist replacement has said that this is all set to change.

But as is the ‘flavour of the week’ right now, details are not exactly forthcoming.

Adalberto Campos Fernandes has simply said that ‘times they are a-changing’ and a new scheme to attract qualified professionals to the northeast of the country, the deep Alentejo and the habitually-compromised Algarve are in the pipleine.

Doctors’ association leader José Manuel Silva has used the occasion to say last year’s incentive plans were merely “cosmetic”, more designed with the upcoming elections in mind – but as national media sets the ‘failed scheme’ out, it shows doctors were in fact being offered very good terms indeed:

The failed plan, explains Diário de Notícias, involved a tax-free extra thousand euros on monthly pay cheques for six months – followed by an extra €500 over the second six months and €250 for the next four and a half years – as well as help placing the doctors’ children at local schools, and employment opportunities for partners.

Other measures included extra holiday time, and the understanding that doctors and their partners could take holidays together.

But the perks came with the proviso that the doctors had to stay in their new placements for a minimum of five years.

The intention was to fill all kinds of specialities lacking in Portugal’s unlucky areas. Guarda, Caldas da Rainha, Torres Vedras, Bragança and a few other towns joined the Algarve and Alentejo – and for reasons no one is volunteering the job vacancies are still waiting for takers.

Económico stresses that despite the health minister affirming that negotiations are underway, the sector’s syndicates say they are not aware of any new proposals.

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