Over 5,500 nurses “request excuse of responsibility”

For each ‘extra patient’ on a nurse’s watch, mortality rises 7%

The reality of what ‘overloading nurses with too much work’ looks like has been starkly laid out by Ana Rita Cavaco, president of the Ordem dos Enfermeiros (Nurses official order) – currently fending off allegations that she and other members of her organisation have ‘fiddled fuel expenses’.

Given that the criminal probe follows ‘a tip off’ by a former member of the Order, one can accept there may be ‘sour grapes’ attached to it.

The ‘facts’ behind nurses’ repeated requests for excuse of responsibility however are unequivocal. They have been lodged by teams from hospitals from Faro to Famalicão, Penafiel, Braga, Leiria, Caldas de Rainha – as well as from the entire complement of A&E nurses at Lisbon’s Santa Maria.

Doctors too have lodged their own protests.

Talking to tabloid Correio da Manhã, Ana Rita Cavaco stresses her Order has detected services which should be running “double the number of nurses” they have right now.

“It has been demonstrated by international studies that for each extra patient a nurse has charge of, mortality increases by 7%…” she added.

In one short sentence, Ms Cavaco gave a clue of what REALLY lies behind Portugal’s ‘excess mortality’, given that deaths from Covid-19 clearly do not.

So, what does ‘requesting excuse of responsibility’ actually mean?

Ana Rita Cavaco explains it mitigates nurses’ responsibility, but doesn’t remove it entirely.

“It means in these situations (in which patient care falls short) they are not blamed for the lack of care that they are not able to give (by dint of being overstretched/ understaffed). The request is registered and serves in case where there are legal processes” resulting from poor patient attendance.

Breaking numbers down, of the 5,500 requests for excuse of responsibility received since last November, 4,475 have been lodged since February – the vast majority (4,000) of them coming from the central region, “overwhelmingly due to situations in Leiria and Caldas da Rainha”.

Over 1,500 requests have come from the southern region (hospitals in the Algarve, Amadora-Sintra and Setúbal) which the nurses Order claims are suffering “the worst situations” of staff overload.

As to the probe into eventual ‘economic/ financial’ crimes by members of the Order, for allegedly using fuel expenses to ‘complement salaries’, this has been ongoing for some time now and should be completed by July.

At that point, the probe will either be ‘archived’, or criminal charges filed.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com