Order given to suspend non-urgent activity in Portugal’s State hospitals

A dispatch signed by the Ministry of Health has today given the order to suspend all non-urgent ‘assistential activity’ in SNS state hospitals for the month of November.

Said a text sent out to newsrooms:“In view of the current increase in the incidence of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has issued an order to ensure the best coordination and coordination in response to needs”.

Measures “contemplate that SNS hospitals guarantee institutional contingency levels… to assure response to local epidemiological necessities”.

This allows for the suspension of ‘non-urgent care activity that due to its nature and clinical priority does not imply risk of life for patients, limitation of prognosis and/ or limitation of access to periodic treatments or surveillance’.

Explain reports, the decision “comes at a time in which pressure on public hospitals has started to increase, due to the rapid epidemiological evolution in the country”.

It also comes at a time when waiting lists for ‘non-urgent surgeries’ and consultations have mushroomed to the point that many SNS health users are considering whether or not they can afford to go private.

A study by the Accounts Court has suggested “financial incentives” will be needed to power the recovery of delayed consultations and surgeries.

Performed with data from March to July, the study found that programmed surgeries fell by around 58% (translating into 93,300 people whose needs were considered non-urgent), while 44% less people were attended in casualty departments (calculated as a drop of over 683,000 incidents), while first consultations were reduced by over 364,500 (a fall of 40%).

Urgent surgeries also fell, by 17% – meaning that 4,359 people continue with whatever problem it is that surgery might have helped fix.

Average waiting times for consultations have increased from 100 to 171 days, said the study, while average waiting times for surgeries have increased from 106 days to 147.

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