Portuguese hospitals braced for ‘most critical moment in health service history’

Portuguese hospitals are braced for the most critical moment in the history of the SNS health service.

According to a study by APAH, the national association of hospital administrators, numbers in intensive care units could reach 1000 by February 12 (they are currently just below 900).

Epidemiologists have been warning of such a scenario for some time – despite the fact that the number of new infections is slowly starting to fall

The most affected areas are those in the Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo health district.

Says Expresso, “health minister Marta Temido was advised on Friday that the most critical moment of the pandemic and the history of SNS health service will arrive in the next few days.

“In a letter sent by CARNI (the commission accompanying the national response to intensive care medicine) specialists paint a bleak prognosis and say categorically that the government failed in not requesting international aid.

“Probably no other moment previously will be worse than that which the country and intensive care medicine is about to face in these next two weeks. It will be difficult to avoid the scenario of catastrophe medicine”, said the letter.

As a result, with almost no doubt there will be “a reduction in quality of care”.

The intensive care specialists are all too clear, says Expresso. “To save critical patients who need treatment, whatever that treatment may be, more beds are needed.

“Resorting to foreign medical teams (click here) is a sticking plaster to a wound that needs suturing”, the paper continues.

What is needed is 200 more beds in all the hospitals that run ICUs.

“We will need to use surgical wards and recovery rooms”, said João Gouveia of CARNI – particularly for critical patients who don’t have Covid, “leaving units with adequate conditions of ventilation for patients that have Covid”.

But the biggest stumbling block is ‘human resources’, as Portugal is basically at its limit.

Says Gouveia: “It’s very difficult. For doctors, we are trying other specialities, like internal medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, neurology, nephrology, and placing them to work under intensive care specialists’ coordination”.

For nurses, it is much more complicated.

Today’s Covid bulletin shows patient numbers in hospital falling, more recoveries than new infections and the overall picture (of active infections) reducing slowly.

But deaths at 214 in the last 24-hour period are still ‘high’, and the added tragedy today has been the death of a seven-month-old baby (already suffering ‘multiple congenital complications’).

Portugal is poised tomorrow to enter the territory of over 14,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with 148,359 active infections, 192,673 people under health authority ‘vigilance’ and 599,593  pronounced ‘recovered’.

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