Nurses threaten birthing boycott

Hot-on-the heels of a public sector workers’ strike that paralysed the country’s state health sector last week, nurses are now threatening to boycott birthing and maternity services.

The first hospital laying out specifics for this new form of industrial action is Hospital Dr Fernando Fonseca, also known as Amadora-Sintra, reports Correio da Manhã this morning.

Portugal’s Nurses Association says it is right behind the movee, accusing health and finance ministries of being to blame.

The issue centres on the government’s failure to reward specialist nurses for their services.

The nurses are demanding “individual contracts” and salaries that take their specialist knowledge into account – in this case, qualifications in obstetrics and maternity care.

According to CM, Amadora-Sintra’s obstetric nurses have already made their position very clear and given bosses until July 3 to make the necessary changes.

If nothing is done, the nurses “guarantee” that they will stop performing their (unpaid) specialties, and instead carry out “responsibilities as defined in their contracts”.

This means they will stop providing ‘specialist services’ at the triage stage of ‘urgent admissions’ – ie they would not take decisions to admit mums-to-be in ‘emergencies’ (like waters breaking), and they would refuse to undertake ‘materno-fetal’ monitoring in situations where the birth is already at risk, explains CM.

For now, the situation appears confined to Amadora-Sintra, where an average of 300 babies are born every year.

The Nurses Association has around 41,000 members, of which almost 16,000 have specialities. Only 2,723 are specialised in obstetrics and maternity care, adds CM – stressing that the Amadora-Sintra hospital board is aware of the threat hanging over its services, and is at pains to create openings for their ‘specialist nurses’, but lacks the necessary authorisation from the health ministry.

Contacted by CM, the health ministry was reported this morning to be “without a response”.

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