Open letter to health minister: “There is no tragedy greater than this”

Five former presidents of the general medical council have joined the entity’s current leader in an open letter written to health minister Marta Temida urging her to change the strategy of the SNS national health system before any more patients have to suffer delayed surgeries, cancelled appointments and life-threatening frustrations due to the focus on Covid-19.

“There is no tragedy greater than this one”, affirm Miguel Guimarães, Gentil Martins, Carlos Ribeiro, Germano Sousa, José Manuel Silva and Pedro Nunes (not that long ago in charge of hospitals in the Algarve).

Traditionally considered as supporting the more centre-right wing policies of the PSD, these largely eminent physicians claim the SNS simply doesn’t have the capacity to respond to patients’ needs in a second wave of the virus.

The six doctors stress that the first wave saw 100,000 surgeries, six million consultations and 17 million exams ‘put on hold’. The angst this caused patients was beyond description. The message is: it cannot be allowed to happen a second time – particularly as the health system is only now ‘starting to recover from the disruption of the last few months’.

Explain reports, the doctors stress that GPs have seen their time occupied with too much Covid-related contingencies (for example becoming involved in the TraceCovid system, being called into old people’s homes to give support, etc.) It’s time to ‘free them from these duties’ and let them go back to caring for the health of their ‘non-Covid’ patients and continuing with the work of what the SNS was set up for.

“We cannot return to leaving people behind”, urge the doctors in a letter that highlights problems already appearing in hospitals in ‘trouble spots’, like Porto.

Porto’s São João hospital went into ‘contingency level III’ on Tuesday, which means it has become so overwhelmed with Covid cases that yet again planned surgeries may end up ‘affected’ (not cancelled, but pushed forwards – very often with no firm date in sight).

Said Rádio Renascença yesterday, the hospital has 52 patients with Covid-19 in its general wards, while 11 are in intensive care. The services of infectious diseases and gynaecology ‘dedicated uniquely to Covid patients’ are currently with a 100% level of occupation.

As the doctors stress, a strategy is needed ‘urgently’ before the autumn turns to winter.

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