A PROTEST by nurses at Faro Hospital over job security, reported in last week’s edition of The Resident, went ahead as planned on Wednesday.
Around 150 nurses at the hospital, some of whom have been working there for three years or more, are being offered rolling three-month contracts, a situation they feel is unfair as they say it leaves them without any job security.
To demonstrate their frustration at the situation, a large plastic shop dummy, dressed in a nurse’s uniform, with a noose around its neck, was hung from specially erected gallows at the hospital’s entrance. In addition, numerous nurses held banners and handed out leaflets during the protest.
“The 150 nurses at Faro Hospital, which equates to 25 per cent of the total nursing staff, took part in the protest because they are stuck in this precarious situation. These nurses do not know if they will be staying in their jobs or leaving the hospital at the end of every three-month period,” said Celso Silva, regional head of the Sindicato dos Enfermeiros Portugueses (SEP), the Portuguese nurses’ union.
Silva also pointed out the fact that, including the nurses, there are 400 other members of staff at the hospital that are in a precarious employment situation, a figure which includes auxiliaries, porters and administrative workers. By staging the protest, the nurses hope tohave raised awareness of their plight in order to persuade the hospital to offer them better employment conditions. “We want the hospital to create permanent positions so that these nurses can be offered longterm contracts,” he emphasised.
Some cases exist where nurses have been working at the hospital for as long as four years already. “We are doing our jobs well but, in my case, I have already had my contract renewed five times”, commented 24-year-old nurse, Cláudia Leitão. Others spoke of the lack of career prospects saying that it will be impossible for them to enjoy any form of career progression.
As well as handing out leaflets to the public, the nurses delivered a signed petition to Faro Hospital’s board of administration, asking for the job insecurity situation to be resolved through the offer of permanent staff positions.
More nurses needed
The Faro branch of SEP says around 36,000 nurses are needed in Portugal, but the government is intending to block any further contracting of nurses. With regard to Faro Hospital, 700 nurses are required, but there are only 550, with 150 of these working on temporary contracts.
Celso Silva explained that this precarious employment situation is unique at hospital level in the Algarve. Silva told how there are 30 nurses in a similar situation at the districts 16 health centres, but that the system is different at Lagos and Portimão hospitals.
“At those hospitals, they have 100 temporary staff, but they are given 12 month contracts. At the end of one or two years, the staff are offered permanent contracts,” he said.
The Resident’s Caroline Cunha contacted the press office at Faro Hospital to obtain the administration’s reaction to the protest staged last Wednesday, which provided a written statement.
“Faro Hospital declares that is has always shown concern for the problems of nurses and, in line with this attitude, met in May of this year with the nurses’ union, to discuss their discontentment and demonstrated its availability to try to solve the situation together. Currently, the situation is being studied and the administration has sent various correspondence requesting the opinions of the relevant entities responsible for employment matters, so that it can act subsequently, in line with the legislation.
With the objective of resolving the situation, the administration has made proposals for longer term contracting, including making individual permanent contracts available, which comply with legislation. However, the final decision as to whether these proposals will be implemented falls outside the remit of the board of administration at Faro Hospital. Currently, authorisation is pending from a superior authority with regard to the offer of 100 permanent positions.”