Portimão Hospital

Pressure mounts for inquiry into British baby’s death in Portimão Hospital

INEM insists “everything possible was done” 

Pressure is mounting today for a full inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of an 11-month-old British baby in Portimão hospital last Friday.

INEM medical emergency institute has insisted everything possible to ensure the child’s survival was done – but the fact that a specialised pediatric ambulance was not available for the critical transfer doctors believed he needed has come under fire by pre-hospital technicians and the independent syndicate of doctors.

Syndicate president Roque da Cunha has reiterated his belief in Correio da Manhã tabloid today that there needs to be a “careful and demanding inquiry”.

The crux of the issue, in Roque da Cunha’s perspective, is not the efforts of the professionals involved, but the fact that “the medical vehicle that should have been actioned from the outset was inoperational.

“This is something that requires a careful and demanding inquiry so as not to jump to precipitous conclusions”, he said. “Instead of trying to find reasons for this tragic occurrence, the Ministry of Health has to create conditions so that there are paediatricians in the Algarve to overcome this type of problem.

“Over the last couple of years there have been more days with a shortage of pediatricians in A&E departments. Very often, when the A&E is available, the doctors on duty are not pediatricians”, he added.

The story has predictably been picked up by British media, although the identity of the little boy has been kept under wraps.

More details coming out suggest that he was staying in Portimão, on holiday with his parents; that he had been attended at the hospital a few days before for bronchitis, and then returned to the hospital when his condition worsened.

Yesterday, reports centred on the little boy’s heart issues. Correio da Manhã described a cardiac stroke brought on by fluid accumulation between the membranes surrounding the heart, known as pericardia.

Today, there has been the added detail of septicemia. According to CM, when the baby was brought back to Portimão Hospital on Friday by his parents, “the doctors discovered that he had septicemia”.

The decision was made to transfer to Hospital de Santa Cruz in Carnaxide (Lisbon), which specialises in heart problems, says the paper, but then came the logistical issues of trying to find adequate specialised transport.

The decision to fly the child by helicopter to Faro Hospital appears to have been a bid to stabilise his condition in a regular intensive care unit (not specialised for pediatrics), but this ended up not being possible. In transit to the Loulé helipad, doctors made the decision to turn back to Portimão hospital, because the flight was deemed “incompatible” with the child’s worsening state of health.

Last night, television news reports insisted that INEM and the Ministry of Health consider everything possible was done in this situation, and that an inquiry is not required.

A source however is quoted by SIC Notícias as saying that “there is a seasonal plan that will be implemented for the summer period, in order to increase the response, integrating primary health care, hospital care and INEM”.

Rui Lazaro, head of the Portuguese union of pre-hospital emergency technicians, is quoted by the UK’s Mirror newspaper as believing “other solutions could have been activated such as the transfer of a specialist medical team to Portimao Hospital by helicopter.

“They could have come from Lisbon, or Coimbra or even from Porto.

“Someone from INEM or from the guidance centre for emergency patients must have made that decision not to activate that option.

“We don’t know why it occurred and this needs to be properly investigated“, he said.

The little boy’s parents meantime have been offered psychological support.

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