The majority of palliative (end-of-life) care teams within the Portuguese national health service do not even supply the ‘bare minimums’ defined by the State.
This is the dismal bottom line of the latest annual report published by the Portuguese Observatory on Palliative Care, which says there has been a definite ‘regression’ in the implementation of the national strategy laid down to alleviate or avoid suffering in those with incurable illnesses.
The document talks of “worrying signs” with many districts offering care that is “very below what is minimally acceptable”.
According to TSF radio, the report’s coordinator Manuel Luís Capelas claims the national plan is “failing” in a sector focused on people “in intense suffering”.
Bearing in mind the needs of Portuguese patients, the palliative care sector is light on 430 doctors, 2,141 nurses, 178 psychologists and 173 ‘social assistants’.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Capelas stresses ‘national directives’ (meaning standards set in Portugal) are lower than those ‘internationally’.
In other words, it’s not simply what TSF calls a ‘grey scenario’, but essentially an “almost black” one.
Duarte Soares, president of the Portuguese Association of Palliative Care, explains that “of 90,000 patients needing us, we don’t reach even 25,000.
“It’s worrying that there are some districts with no community cover whatsoever”, he added, citing Aveiro, Braga, Vila Real, Leiria and Coimbra.
“Palliative care simply hasn’t been a priority”, Duarte Soares concluded, stressing that with its aging population, Portugal has reached a stage with even greater need for this medical speciality.