He could not have been more wrong, but the words of José Carlos Gomes – a candidate to lead Portugal’s nurses association – have been diligently repeated by the country’s press leading hundreds if not thousands into believing that 10% of nurses in Portimão’s casualty department have tuberculosis. They don’t.
But such is Portugal’s “fantastic press”, Algarve hospital chief Pedro Nunes told us, that no journalist sought to check the information out.
If anyone had looked at Gomes’ comments more carefully, they would have seen that he said:
“From the information that I have gathered and which is secure, although it lacks confirmation, we are talking about 10% of the nurses in the casualty service.”
What he was referring to, however, was not cases of tuberculosis. He was referring to a TB screening given to staff after one nurse was found to have contracted the disease from a patient who came into casualty.
That nurse has been treated and is back at work, explained Nunes.
But the hospital opted for general screening to ensure that no-one else had been infected.
Screenings naturally show-up anyone with what is known as a tuberculosis marker.
“Twenty-five per cent of the population will show this marker if they are screened,” said Nunes. “Your body would show one if you came into contact with someone with TB on a bus. It doesn’t mean you get TB, or could even go on to develop it.”
Shouldn’t the candidate for the top position in the country’s Order of Nurses have been aware of this discrepancy, we asked.
“Of course,” replied Nunes. Thus it remains to be seen whether Gomes is successful in his bid to become the next “bastonário” of Portugal’s longstanding nurses association.
His words came as he toured Leiria hospital, bemoaning nurses’ conditions nationally.
As candidate to the Order, he wants to “return the dignity” to his profession, he told reporters.
His remarks about the nurses in Portimão came apropos an alleged lack of any isolation units at the hospital.
This was why “10% of nurses” had tuberculosis, he said.
But Nunes has explained that Portimão has never had any isolation units. The Algarve has three specially-adapted isolation rooms for people with severe infectious diseases, and these are based in Faro.
They are “perfectly sufficient for the needs of the people of the Algarve”, explained Nunes – while Portimão has a two-bed ward on every floor that can be converted into an isolation room whenever the need arises.
This latest scare story however is doing the rounds of the nation’s media even as we write. Jornal i, Correio da Manhã, Sol, TVI24 – even English-language papers – are running with headlines that 10% of nurses in Portimão have TB.
It is another case of ‘churnalism’ – the definition of which is “a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking”.
Like tuberculosis, it is contagious.