Hospital São José is latest to see a head of department shown the door. Image: Rui Gaudencio/ Lusa
Hospital São José is latest to see a head of department shown the door. Image: Rui Gaudencio/ Lusa

Pressure mounts as yet another leading hospital boss “let go”

Health ministry describes “normal adjustments”; syndicate suggests otherwise

Yet another clinical director at a major State hospital has been shown the door, seemingly ‘out of the blue’.

Health minister Manuel Pizarro says it is all part of “normal adjustments” of boards of directors. But the truth is that it comes at a time of turbulence among hospital leaderships, say reports.

Last week it was one of the country’s most respected obstetricians. One minute ‘at the top of his game’, the next, in questioning a plan for the upgrading of his service, unceremoniously let go…

This week it is clinical director of Hospital de São José, Pedro Soares Branco. Appointed almost exactly three years ago he was running CHULC (the inititials by which the central Lisbon university hospital centre is known, involving the flagship institutions of São José, Dona Estefânia and Maternidade Alfredo da Costa)… until he wasn’t. 

He has been summarily ‘discharged’ of his duties, along with three assistant directors.

As SIC Notícias explains today, all clinical directors are nominated by the government following proposals by presidents of the administrative councils. This means these professionals can only been discharged of their duties by the government.

As Manuel Pizarro has insisted, with a great deal of shoulder shrugging and looking from left to right: “These are normal board adjustment issues I don’t see resulting in any disruption. These are normal adjustments…

But Mr Pizarro is a man known to say that everything is “tranquil”… until it isn’t.

“This shouldn’t divert attentions from what has been happening all over Lisbon”, Jorge Roque da Cunha, secretary general of SIM, the Independent Syndicate of Doctors, tells SIC. 

“Resignations of emergency team leaders at Garcia de Horta, Fernando Fonseca (Amadora-Sintra), Beatriz Ângelo, Francisco Xavier – all these colleagues are resigning due to lack of resources”, he said.

Joana Bordalo e Sã, the president of FNAM – the federation of doctors – adds that there is the added problem that doctors feel leadership at hospital level should not be anything to do with the government.

“The process should be democratic. Clinical directors should be elected, as they have in the past, by the professionals of the institutions”, she says.

Nevertheless, as of today, the health minister has thanked Pedro Soares Branco – a professor at the faculty of Medical Sciences at Lisbon’s Nova university and a specialist in physical and rehabilitation medicine – for his ‘dedication and performance’. 

He does not know who will take over the position”, says SIC, thus Luís Campos Pinheiro and João Coimbra “will ensure the operation of the services for the time being”.

As the media station remarks, this dismissal follows that of Diogo Ayres de Campos, former head of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Santa Maria Hospital. “Since then the discontent of the team and the constraints in the service have increased”.

The doctors, missing their former boss, complain about the lack of medical professionals and have presented ‘excuses of responsibility’ for what they regard as excessive overtime demands placed upon them.

Meanwhile, Santa Maria has activated the collaboration mechanism with private institutions which Left Bloc coordinator Mariana Mortágua has described as “the end of the SNS health service”.

None of this is looking, or feeling, like “normal adjustments”.

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