Portuguese National Health Service charges to double

Health minister Paulo Macedo admitted on Monday that users of the Portuguese National Health Service would face a doubling in moderate charges.

Speaking on a special edition of the RTP1 current affairs programme Prós e Contras (Pros and Cons), the minister gave assurances that the SNS (Sistema Nacional de Saúde) was “safe in the government’s hands” and that “no one who couldn’t pay for treatment and could prove they didn’t have the money to pay, would be turned away”.

Charges for across-the-board casualty services (urgências) will now cost €20 instead of €9.60.

The measure had already been announced by the minister last week and had been hinted at when he addressed the American Club last month.

Moderate charges at health centres will also climb from €2.25 to €5, while the government is planning to increase the number of health centres and family doctors by the end of the term, relocating excess doctors at hospitals to the local clinics.

Paulo Macedo said that the number of those with payment exemptions would be increased by 4.4 million to 5.1 million.

The government has promised to embark on the biggest shake-up of the public health service ever seen, closing some hospitals, modernising others and concentrating duplicated services in one centre of excellence.

The minister gave the example of eye specialty units. In Lisbon, there were three where only one was needed.

By concentrating resources, specialists and reorganising schedules, patients would not suffer a decline in service or waiting times.