‘Serra’ health centres to close

Algarve’s health authority has admitted that some health centres in the hinterland may close next month as part of an “experimental phase” to evaluate the quality of healthcare provided to the local population.

Miguel Madeira from the Regional Health Administration (ARS) of the Algarve told Lusa news agency that the government was considering the closure of some health centres which served just a handful of patients, after PS candidate for Castro Marim Câmara (Luís Guilhermino) denounced that the parishes of Azinhal and Odeleite, in the Algarvian ‘serra’, would be losing their units after the local elections.

The ARS spokesperson said the government was yet to make a decision on the issue but that an “experimental phase” would first be introduced before a health centre would “definitively close”. “This process could start as soon as October,” he said, adding that he could not reveal how many centres would be closing down and where.

Madeira said: “We have identified some risk factors and so the process will have to be gradual. In the first phase, we will test if what we are proposing, such as the transfer of some patients from Azinhal to Castro Marim, will effectively mean improved healthcare for the population.

“In order to provide quality healthcare, we need resources. A health unit will provide a better, more efficient service if it can remain open five days a week as opposed to just one day a week as in some cases.”

The ARS source assured that, after the experimental phase, the situation would be evaluated to assess “advantages and disadvantages”.

The majority of the population living in the hills of the Algarve are elderly people whose means of public transport are scarce.

Health minister Paulo Macedo, who recently attended the inauguration of the Azinhal continuing care unit, said a reorganisation of the local healthcare facilities by the ARS would foresee the provision of adequate means of transport for the population.