Operating theatre remains closed

Members of the Lagos Business Association are so desperate to have the operating theatre at Lagos Hospital re-opened that they plan to mobilise the general public of Lagos, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo to take radical action which could even include the setting up of roadblocks. The operating theatre was closed in April, following the deaths of two patients who died of heart failure while undergoing minor surgery. At the time, the anaesthetist involved and the unit manager were suspended pending a full investigation. The re-opening of the theatre is clearly taking its time, and Arlindo Fernandes from the Associação Empresarial do Barlavento (ASEMBA), the area’s business association, says that business owners in Lagos, Aljezur Vila do Bispo will no longer “tolerate a situation which has been going on for nearly eight months and which is serious and damaging for the population”.

“We are not going to remain passive and silent about this incompetence from the government,” he said, adding: “The authorities said the service would be re-opened after the report into the tragic incidents.” Arlindo Fernandes also said that he had been given access to a confidential report from the Inspecção-Geral de Saúde and it emerged that “there is only need for works to be carried out at a cost of 150,000 euros, a relatively insignificant amount. If it is the case that the Ministry for Health is not in a financial position to pay for the works, then the ASEMBA would arrange the funds through its associates,” claims Fernandes.

The business owners are demanding that the Hospital de Lagos guarantees a quality level of care to the local community, which means they do not have to travel to Portimão for operations. The businessmen say that the Barlavento/Costa Vicentina area needs a hospital and warn that business owners and local people will not allow the operating theatre to be permanently closed, while there is not an alternative in place. “If necessary, we will have to take more drastic action in this dispute,” he confirmed.

For his part, the Director of Surgery at the Hospital de Lagos, Estêvão Dinis, said: “It does not make sense to keep the theatre closed when it is equipped with new apparatus of the highest quality.” According to Dinis, “it is harming the reputation of the institution and the professionals who work here and, at the same time, full advantage is not being taken of the service”. The operating unit at the hospital has four surgeons and a waiting list of close to 200 patients. “It is currently only carrying out between 15 and 16 operations a month. Previously, nearly double this amount of operations were carried out on a weekly basis,” the doctor confirmed.

The Director of Surgery at Hospital de Lagos said that, according to a report, “the theatre was not closed for technical reasons, but due to structural reasons which could easily be solved. The report suggests a list of work including the installation of a false ceiling, improvement to doors and windows, ventilation and air conditioning – these are easy refurbishment works to carry out.”

With regards to the views of business people and local residents, and their demand for the re-opening of the theatre, Estêvão Dinis said he understood and agreed as “they are defending their interests with regard to the expected level of healthcare”. At the time of going to press, the Administração Regional de Saúde do Algarve had made no comment on the matter.