LACK OF demand rather than budget cuts are said to be behind the sudden end of round-the-clock care at the Silves medical centre.
The announcement that the the Serviço de Atendimento Permanente (SAP), the 24-hour emergency service, would now close at 10pm until at least the end of the year came without warning.
The nearest emergency care units open after this time are in Albufeira at the medical centre and Barlavento Hospital in Portimão.
The SAP will be open from 8am until 10pm, which has been greatly criticised by ministers and the Comissão de Utentes, the patient’s association, who believe that if it is not offering night care the earliest it should close is midnight. They also criticised the administrators for not informing the local residents of the closure.
The Administração Regional de Saúde, (ARS), the regional health authority announced that, until the end of the year, the 24-hour service will be unavailable.
A solution is being discussed for the coming year, but the president of the ARS, Rui Lourenço, said that he “could not guarantee the service will be available next year”. He did promise that it would be the only one in the Algarve to close.
Lourenço had announced at the beginning of this year that the SAP would be closing before the end of December, but never specified a date.
A protest took place following the announcement and a petition was signed by more than 2,300 people in opposition to the decision. It was delivered to the ARS, but made little difference.
Rui Lourenço did promise that all emergencies in the Silves medical centre would be transported to the nearest available unit and said that it was the best solution for the time being.
President of the Silves Câmara, Isabel Soares, has complained to the ARS about the closure and met with the organisation to discuss the situation.
The câmara funded and implemented a system where the sick were transported from their homes to the SAP throughout the night. This service has been made obsolete as a result of the decision to close the SAP at night.
The ARS maintains that it cannot justify keeping the Silves SAP open at night. Rui Lourenço said that only 1.5 per cent of the patients seen at night were emergencies.
He has also confirmed that the decision was not made in order to make cuts in the budget, but as a result of a lack of demand.