Health system overhaul

Portugal’s private hospitals ‘ready to help’ pandemic combat but cite ‘non-existent’ relationship with SNS

Contrary to declarations by Minister of State Marta Temido, the president of the association of private hospitals in Portugal (APHP) claims his sector has a non-existent relationship with the SNS/ government.

On Monday, Ms Temido said that private hospitals and the social care system was going to be harnessed to start taking up the State’s non-Covid backlog.

She cited a scenario where patients from the public sector would be admitted, receiving surgeries and being referred for consultations.

The announcement however mentioned no date for this new form of practice – and now perhaps we can understand why.

Following an audience with President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in Belém Palace yesterday, APHP president Óscar Gaspar told journalists that private hospitals are more than willing to respond to the pandemic and other illnesses but that contact with the SNS has been sorely lacking.

Portuguese people “need a much more wide ranging” approach to their health requirements, involving the public and private sectors, he agreed. When this has happened in the past, it has been very effective.

Back in August and September private hospitals were called in to take up some of the SNS slack, he explained. But because of an ‘almost non-existent institutional relationship’ between the public health service and the private sector, there has been very little in the way of communication since.

Last week, as hospitals in the north and Lisbon and Vale do Tejo areas started to fill up with Covid patients, there was “some contact” with regional health administrations to gauge the capacity of response available in private hospitals for this so-called ‘second wave’. But as Óscar Gaspar intimated, this kind of request needs planning and organisation.

He told reporters that in his opinion the health directorate plan for Autumn-Winter is flawed as it puts emphasis on the public sector when it should be including the private as well.

Say reports, the initial DGS take on the pandemic (back in April) was that the SNS system was ‘self sufficient’ and did not need help from ‘outside’.

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