Public health services in the Algarve were described as “chaotic” just before New Year’s Eve, with some people waiting over 20 hours to be seen by a doctor or nurse at Faro’s A&E department.
The situation was reported by the Ordem dos Enfermeiros, the country’s official body of nurses, and later by Algarve MP Cristóvão Norte who said that several health services were working “with half of the necessary resources”.
As he explained, several ambulances were also moved from health centres in Albufeira, Loulé and Vila Real de Santo António to Faro Hospital – a measure that is only taken when there are not enough doctors at health centres to ensure that it is able to provide healthcare to patients.
Norte described the situation as “intolerable”.
“We have over one million people in the Algarve (during the festive period) and access to healthcare is more limited than when we have a population of 400,000,” said the MP for the social-democrat party PSD.
“It is unthinkable that someone who is described as in ‘very urgent’ need of healthcare has to wait six hours when the patient should not wait longer than 10 minutes. It is the total collapse of these services,” he said.
A source from hospital centre CHUA, which manages the region’s public hospitals, told Lusa news agency that the situation had returned to normal after an “abnormal peak” in the number of patients at Faro’s emergency department.
Algarve needs over 500 nurses
News of a chaotic end to the year at the region’s health services came at the same time that the union of Portuguese nurses (SEP) announced that over 500 nurses are needed in the Algarve.
Says the union, health centres alone need a boost of 146 nurses and even the 65 that will be hired at the start of this year are not expected to make an impact as 40 will likely move out of the Algarve.
The situation is even more serious at the region’s hospitals, where over 350 nurses are needed.
“The Ministry of Health has to authorise the immediate hiring of more nurses,” the union says.
Making matters worse is the fact that nurses in the Algarve are said to be owed 32,000 hours in overtime pay. In all of Portugal, the number of extra hours owed is said to be 700,000.
The union has already advised nurses to refuse additional work.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]