State hospitals need an additional 500 anaesthetists

State hospitals in Portugal are in need of “at least” an additional 500 anaesthetists. The situation has been dubbed “critical” and particularly pressing in the Algarve and Santarém regions.

In fact, the anaesthetia team at Faro Hospital last week urged Portugal’s health minister to act, accusing the Algarve hospital board (CHA) of transferring surgeries to the private sector instead of solving the problem of the shortage of specialists at the region’s state hospitals.

According to Público newspaper, hospital sources claimed that 40% of all surgeries in the Algarve were being carried out in the private sector.

CHA has since assured that plans are in place to hire more anaesthetists for the Algarve, which currently has 17 but is hoping to receive an additional 30.

In Santarém, however, the shortage of specialists has forced the state hospital to close two of its operating rooms. Meantime, 3,835 people requiring surgery remain on a waiting list.

“We have nine anaesthetists, but we need 18. There is no point having operating rooms if there aren’t any health professionals,” hospital boss José Josué told Correio da Manhã, saying the hospital’s surgery department is working at half of its capacity.

Paulo Lemos from the doctors’ association (Ordem dos Médicos) has since said the situation may improve but only if “none of the current anaesthetists leave their job or retire, which is unlikely”.

“In 2020, 300 students will be concluding their training and will be able to help attenuate the shortage,” he explained.

Until then, health authorities will have to find a solution to yet another crisis affecting the country’s state hospitals.

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