Opening of children’s emergency unit hit by delays

By: Caroline Cunha

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CONSTRUCTION OF a new children’s emergency unit, which was scheduled to open at Faro Hospital at the end of June, has been severely delayed, The Resident learned this week.

Although the bulk of the funds for the project were raised by the city’s Forum Algarve shopping centre in December 2005, work on the much needed new unit hasn’t started yet, with Faro Hospital unable to give the reasons for the delay.

The Forum Algarve presented a cheque for 117,000 euros in January last year to Ana Paula Gonçalves, president of Faro Hospital’s board of administration, an event also attended by the Secretary of State for Health, Carmen Pignatelli and the president of the Algarve Regional Health Authority, Rui Lourenço.

At that time, it was explained that a construction company to carry out the work on the new 700sqm unit would be selected via a public tender within three months. The deadline set to complete the total project was 18 months, the end of June 2007, with a total investment of around 300,000 euros to be part funded by the state.

When asked for the reasons behind the delay, Faro Hospital issued the following statement:

“With regard to the paediatric emergency unit project, the Board of Administration declares that a company has been selected to carry out the work and the tender process is close to being concluded. It is foreseen that the work will begin at the end of this quarter,” it said.

“As part of this project, Faro Hospital requested and obtained the collaboration of the Design Course students from the Algarve University in order for them to be involved in providing creative solutions for the decoration of the new facility.”

The statement added that it could still be possible for the new unit to open by the end of this year.

Forum Algarve’s General Manager Carlos Costa said: “We were informed that work will only begin in April. Yes, we wish that the unit could have been ready sooner and it is now our wish that it is completed as soon as possible. We expect to see the work completed quickly.

“Sometimes things can take a little longer than expected, but the most important thing is that there will be a children’s emergency unit and that is good news for the region.”

The new unit would occupy the space vacated by the gastroenterology department and 80 per cent of the equipment to be installed would be brand new.

At last year’s cheque presentation, Rui Lourenço, president of the Algarve Regional Health Authority, told The Resident: “Faro hospital was built with a much smaller population in mind. With the advent of tourism and the rapid growth of the population in the Algarve, the hospital’s resources are no longer adequate.”

He said that improvements were on the way, but that thanks to the contribution from Forum Algarve, “we can have a new paediatric unit at Faro Hospital sooner than if it had been purely state funded.”

A film shown after the presentation highlighted the conditions at the existing paediatric emergency unit at Faro Hospital. Measuring 176sqm, the unit was seen as being extremely cramped and such is the shortage of space that children over 12-years-old have to be assessed at the adults’ emergency unit.

No comment

The Resident contacted Rui Lourenço but he declined to comment on the issue.

Elsa Rocha, a paediatrician at the emergency unit, told The Resident: “The waiting room is so cramped that while your child is waiting to be seen for one condition, they are sure to pick up another bug and be back in 15 days to be assessed again.”

The consultation area is separated from the waiting room by swing doors, doctors and their patients are constantly interrupted with people coming in and out.

Several children are examined at the same time by the duty doctors in one old cramped room with no divisions and two beds. It has a makeshift appearance and is not dissimilar to a unit that could be found in less developed countries.

The unit moved to its current premises as a temporary measure and the department was expected to remain there for only 15 days. But, 14 years later, it is still there.  “It is very difficult for us to work like this. We would like to do more, but our hands are tied,” said Elsa Rocha.

Parents of young children in the area were less forgiving when hearing news of the delay.

Andreia Revez, mother of two children, aged three and one, from Montenegro, near Faro told The Resident:

“I had no idea it was so delayed. This is unacceptable and really frustrating not only for people with children, but for the community as a whole.

Inadequate facilities

“The waiting room there is so tiny that when I took my son there last year when he was suffering from a very high fever, I felt forced to wait outside to keep him away from other sick children. We need better public health facilities. Right now I feel I have to go private and that is so expensive.”

Karin Romano from Loulé, mother of a boy of almost three and a young baby said: “The doctors there do a really good job, but the facilities are inadequate. They need a separate area for young babies so that they don’t have to wait and be exposed to germs from older children in the waiting room. It is a real shame there has been this delay. If it has taken a year to get started with the project, I can’t imagine when it will be ready.”

Diana Alves, also from the Loulé area, has a son of nearly two. “This is an urgent project and I would be interested to know why something so important like this is being delayed,” she said. “Now they have the funds to do it, it would be a real shame if something like bureaucracy is affecting its progress.”

The money for the private contribution to the project was raised by over 20,000 shoppers paying to skate on an ice rink installed at Forum Algarve over the 2005 Christmas period and from perimeter advertising at the rink.

Additional funds were garnered from donations received at a toy hospital, also set up over the festive period at Forum.

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