Doctors' flashmob at WHO symposium in Porto today. Image: André Kosters/ Lusa
Doctors' flashmob at WHO symposium in Porto today. Image: André Kosters/ Lusa

Protesting doctors ‘flashmob’ WHO symposium in Porto

Doctors syndicate leader gets to explain grievances to WHO/ Europe director

A group of banner-waving doctors picketed the World Health Organisation (WHO) symposium in Porto this morning, so that “the whole world hears the wake-up call” for better salaries and working conditions.

The self-described ‘flashmob’, organised by the National Federation of Doctors (FNAM) began at around 8am and ran until 10am, coinciding with the opening of the WHO Symposium dedicated to ‘the digital future’.

The protest also marked the start of a caravan that will tour the country to reinforce the mobilisation of doctors – so that they don’t work more than the mandatory 150 hours of overtime a year – and to map the “dramatic situation” in various health units.

Shouting slogans such as “Pizarro listen, the doctors are struggling“, “public services belong to everyone, private belongs to a few” and “the people deserve the SNS (State health service)”, the doctors were protesting about what they call the “silence” of the Ministry of Health ( and the government to FNAM’s counter-proposal addressing salary scales, the new regime of full dedication and integration of the medical internship into the career.

During the protest, FNAM president Joana Bordalo e Sá spoke with Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO/Europe, who – accompanied by health minister Manuel Pizarro – went over to hear the protestors.

We managed to get across the message that there is in fact a serious problem in Portugal, that we are among the lowest paid doctors in Europe, that we have in fact gone more than a decade without a pay rise, with working conditions deteriorating,” Bordalo e Sá, who handed Hans Kluge a letter with a history of the syndicate’s demands, told Lusa.

Kluge, who is also a doctor, “seemed to be sensitive to the issue that there does need to be innovation, investment in digitalisation, but that there also needs to be investment where there is a lack of investment in Portugal, which is in human resources,” said the FNAM leader.

“We need more health professionals and, above all, we need doctors in the SNS – that’s what FNAM is fighting for,” she emphasised.

Joana Bordalo e Sá said: “We made a point of being here for the whole world to hear our warning cry – and so that the Minister of Health, Manuel Pizarro, and the Prime Minister, António Costa, realise that we need to invest in doctors and the SNS.

“It’s not just digitalisation; it’s not just using the €10 million from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) to invest, for example, in five robots. We need money to be invested in professionals – particularly doctors,” she said.

With this protest in Porto, FNAM began their caravan that “will travel the whole country”.

“We’re going to listen to each other, we’re going to encourage the delivery of drafts so that doctors don’t work more than the mandatory 150 hours of overtime per year and we’ll end with a national strike on November 14 and 15, and a demonstration (on the 14th) in front of the Ministry of Health.” 

Regarding the next round in negotiations, scheduled for Thursday, Bordalo e Sá stressed that it will be “the sixth extra-negotiating meeting, because the negotiation protocol ended on June 30, but there has been neither the competence nor the will” on the part of the Ministry of Health to resolve the situation.

“Doctors in Portugal are among the lowest paid in the European Union and have seen their working conditions deteriorate over the last decade, so we have been emigrating and leaving the SNS for the private sector or for companies providing services,” she said.

According to the FNAM, “after 16 months of negotiations that have failed to resolve the problem of the lack of doctors in the SNS, the Ministry of Health has so far neither presented nor accepted adequate proposals to safeguard medical careers, revealing a lack of competence to reach an agreement capable of responding quickly to the need to retain doctors in the SNS”.

The National Federation of Doctors argues that in order to reverse this reality, the government must “increase the slice of the State Budget earmarked for doctors’ salaries, and properly utilise European funds that will be injected into the RRP“.

The 2nd World Health Organisation Symposium is debating the Future of Health Systems in the Digital Age in Porto until Wednesday, and is dedicated to the area of technology applied to health.

The focus is on issues that could affect the current and future panorama of health systems in Europe, namely the impact of recent advances in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) on the health of populations.

Source: LUSA