Portugal has been accused of offering its nurses ‘crackers’ while other countries give caviar.
It was simply another form of explaining the miserable salaries and conditions offered nationally, at a time when the profession remains overworked and understaffed.
Ana Rita Cavaco, the tough-talking head of the Order of Nurses, was talking this time in the context of what she believes is coming: further mass ‘emigrations’ of nurses after an exhausting ultimately unrewarded fight against the pandemic.
Just last year 1,230 nursing professionals “abandoned the country” in favour of better paid jobs elsewhere, writes Correio da Manhã.
There are currently around 20,000 Portuguese nurses working elsewhere in Europe (mainly UK, France, Spain and Germany) as well as in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, UAE).
In the first six months of this year 277 more have put in requests to the Order to be allowed to emigrate (this is how the system works). Ms Cavaco expects this number to increase well before the end of the year.
Her ‘crackers and caviar’ comment came while she was receiving her vaccine as she explained that nurses’ salaries abroad can be “three or four times higher” than what they would earn here.
Guadalupe Simões, the head of Portugal’s nursing syndicate, told CM that a general nurse earns a salary of just €1,208 at the beginning of her/ his career. He/ she “will find various obstacles to progression; will only be evaluated every 10 years, and can only hope at the end of 40 years of work to reach a salary of €1,800”.
CM’s spread on this subject today has recalled the Portuguese nurses working abroad who have been praised and even honoured for their expertise. One is Sílivia Nunes, 36, who left Portugal for the UK in 2014 and has won three awards: Best Nurse in the East of England, Best Continuous Care Nurse and Nursing Personality of 2018. Another is Luís Pitarma formerly from Aveiro who stayed by Boris Johnson’s side back in the dark days of 2020 when the British prime minister was fighting serious Covid infection himself.
In a special tribute to Luís and a colleague who worked with him, Mr Johnson said “the reason my body in the end did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed” (click here).
Says CM, another Portuguese nurse who left the country for far superior professional opportunities is Carolina Relvas (now Relvas Britton) – the first Portuguese hired by Cambridge University Hospital, now a nursing chief of staff, coordinating a Masters degree project.