THE PORTUGUESE National Health Service must be open to change and reform if it is to survive into the 21st century.
This was the stark message delivered by Prime Minister José Sócrates on Saturday at the inauguration of a hospital care unit in Coimbra.
He said it was necessary to restructure the Serviço Nacional de Saúde so that it could meet the “necessities of today’s population” and criticised those who thought that it could continue unchanged along the lines in which it was created. “Today’s SNS cannot be the same SNS that we had 20 years ago and doing nothing is simply not an alternative,” he said.
José Sócrates said that he understood that health sector reforms had not always been “well understood” particularly since “all reforms imply change and difficulties”.
The Prime Minister also said that the “needs of the elderly” would always come first but talked of the need for public-private partnerships (PPPs) between private health care groups, the Ministry of Health and charities (misericórdias).
The government’s objective is to “double the number of beds for continuous care by the end of the year, from 2,200 to 4,000.
On Saturday, in the presence of Health Minister Ana Jorge, eight accords were signed with misericórdias and social security institutions with the aim of creating over 100 care beds in Aveiro, Coimbra, Guarda and Leiria.
The government is currently winding down several obsolete 18th century Lisbon hospitals including São José, Desterro and Capuchos, which will be replaced with the Todos os Santos Hospital in the north of the city.
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