national health service crisis - Portimão Hospital
Portimão Hospital Photo: OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Portimão Hospital joins others failing to provide emergency cover for pregnant women

Obstetric/ gynacological A&E closes at 9pm today and stays shut till next Monday

Portimão Hospital has joined others up and down the country in failing to provide emergency cover for expectant mothers and women with gynaecological problems.

A communiqué sent out to press departments just before midnight last night (11.43pm) explains that due to “difficulties in securing rosters in maternity units and delivery blocs”, the CHUA hospital board has decided that the best option is simply to pull down the shutters for the best part of the next week.

Mums-to-be who find themselves going into labour – either on time, or prematurely; women who suffer gynaecological issues that cannot be addressed through consultations in health centres/ private clinics, will all have to make their way to Faro Hospital – which for those coming from the West Algarve, particularly if they are in labour, adds at least another hour to their journeys.

Portimão mayor Isilda Gomes has reportedly ‘refused to comment’ on the basis that this is “a problem that is affecting other hospitals in the country” – which indeed it is: being an expectant mother in Portugal right now – if one chooses the SNS health service – is no joke.

Health minister Marta Temido spent the whole of Monday in meetings with representatives from the sector: doctors, nurses, hospital directors – and by all accounts, the results have satisfied very few, if any, of the government’s critics.

Her bottom-line message was that the government is coming up with a contingency plan for the immediate summer months – essentially meaning that overtime pay will increase to between €40 and €50 an hour, instead of the habitual €12 (which not surprisingly has failed to entice health professionals to sign-up for extra work).

The government will also be “opening vacancies” this week to try and hire more recently-qualified health specialists.

The trouble with her rather shambolic statement during last night’s news bulletins is that she referred to opening vacancies for 100 new health specialists, when critics insist there is the need for 10 times this number.

All involved agree on one aspect of this current ‘crisis’ however: it is systemic. It has been in evidence for years.

Former health minister Adalberto Campos Fernandes has dubbed this current moment in the SNS health service’s history as a “perfect storm” that is transforming it into a service purely for the poor – and an inadequate one at that.

In comments made to Rádio Renascença, he said it is up to the government and parliament to revert this tendency, or crises like this latest one will simply persist.

The CHUA communiqué describes “all other services and areas of assistance” at the hospital as “fully operational”.

What does this actually mean? In the case of newly-diagnosed cancer patients, for example, it can mean that following a positive diagnosis at the beginning of April, patients can still be waiting to embark on a course of chemotherapy in the middle of June.

Much more on this subject will come in our paper edition, out on Thursday.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com