Public hospital in-patients could pay five euros a day

IN-PATIENTS AT public hospitals could soon be asked to pay five euros a day for up to 14 days towards their treatment costs, the Minister for Health admitted at the end of last week. The new measure, along with several others relating to patient charges, could be implemented as early as the beginning of next year.

During an interview on the television programme, Grande Entrevista (The Big Interview), shown on Portuguese station RTP1, Minister for Health António Correia de Campos stated that the exact amounts of the new public charges were still under discussion. They would only be defined after the approval of the next state budget. However, the minister did specify that, in the case of in-patients, the patient would have to pay a daily charge of five euros, up to a maximum of 14 days, after which time the illness would be considered as “very serious” and the daily charge would cease to be applicable.

According to Correia de Campos, this would mean that, in the future, a stay of 14 days in hospital would cost a national health patient 70 euros, while at the present time no daily charge is made.

With regard to the charges that the government is intending to apply in the case of out-patient operations, the minister said that the details and relevant charges were yet to be discussed within the scope of the state budget.

Correia de Campos rejected the idea that these new patient subsidies would be based on the principle of “you use the service, you pay for it” and guaranteed that those who should not pay the charges will not pay them, referring to the 55 per cent of Portugal’s population who are exempt, such as the chronically ill, children under 12 years of age, pregnant women, bombeiros, alcoholics and drug addicts., among others.

For the Health Minister, five euros per day is a reasonable price that “does not even pay for the meal” that the patient is given when staying in hospital and is “little more than the cost of a packet of cigarettes or even a cinema ticket”, he said.

The minister emphasised that a differentiation in the fees based on the patient’s earnings could possibly be applied in the future, but recognised the difficulty in a system of this type being introduced.

The proposed measures are already attracting criticism, even within the minister’s own party (PS) and are likely to be the subject of much heated debate over the coming months.