Paediatricians strike at Faro Hospital

Despite assurances last month from Faro Hospital that the dispute about overtime pay had been resolved, nine of the hospital’s 23 paediatricians went ahead with the strike onOctober 1, as previously threatened.

Doctors’ union, Sindicato Independente dos Médicos (SIM), announced that a strike of paediatricians at Faro Hospital would take place on October 1, one day before a scheduled visit from the President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio. The union wished to appeal to the President to have things put straight in relation to arrears in overtime payments and for him to “make the point clear to those in charge of health for the region.”

However, the President was more concerned about the problem of waiting lists at the hospital. Despite the President’s lack of interest, the Chief Executive of Faro Hospital, Gonçalves Junior, had reportedly said last month that the matter had been settled and SIM had called off the strike. A source from the Board of Administration at Faro Hospital commented at the time that “funds have already been made available”.

For the past six months, the union has been trying to resolve the payment of arrears which date back to 2003. Jorge Salvador, the doctor heading the union in the Algarve, said: “There are thousands of hours of overtime and, in economic terms, these are thousands of euros,” he also criticised the inability of the Regional Health Authority (Administração Regional da Saúde) to solve the situation.

Strike had no effect?

Sources at Faro Hospital brushed off last Friday’s walk out, with one doctor on duty commenting, “most of the paediatricians didn’t know anything about this strike”. The Board at Faro Hospital was also quick to inform the media: “All out-patients have been seen and admissions and discharges are not affected. There are three doctors to six patients on the ward and the children’s emergency section has been particularly quiet.”

The union did not, however, paint quite the same picture, claiming that children arriving at the hospital on Friday with appointments to see consultants were being sent home, and that children who had been due to be discharged were unlikely to go home until the Wednesday after the Bank Holiday. SIM blamed the need for strike action on the Regional Health Authority, accusing them of “inactivity and stagnation”.

It is still unclear what has been agreed between the two parties regarding the payments of overtime. A source at the hospital, when asked about the payments relating to August, commented: “Funds have been unblocked and these monies will be paid at the end of October”. The same source disagreed with the claim that Faro Hospital had a responsibility regarding the overtime payments due from 2003. The source said: “The payment for August is being made by the Hospital but overtime payments outstanding from 2003 are not our responsibility.”

Disputes elsewhere in Portugal

Doctors at Faro Hospital are not alone in their fight to be paid for their hours of overtime. Doctors at Hospital Joaquim Urbano in Porto commenced a one month walk out on September 13. A similar conflict has also taken place at Porto’s Hospital de Santo António.