Surgery for cancer patients restricted to Algarve, Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto

Cancer patients will soon only be able to be operated on in the Algarve, Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto.

The decision was announced by the Ministry of Health this week and is already receiving intense criticism.

The idea is to conduct surgeries at ‘centros de referência’ (the hospitals and health centres with the best cancer care in the country), but health officials from inland areas say the locations are just too far away.

“I don’t see why local health services can’t be compatible with quality work,” Miguel Barbosa, the head of surgery at Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, told SIC television news.

Évora Hospital’s head of surgery Jorge Caravana added that ‘centros de referência’ (CRs) are all linked to universities – which automatically excludes hospitals from the country’s interior.

“This ends up going against what was supposed to be the goal – to decentralise cancer care,” he told SIC.

Worse is the fact that CRs were chosen without input from the Ordem dos Médicos (medical association) or hospitals that face exclusion – some of which have achieved “even better results” in certain specialties than the ones chosen to deal with patients now, TSF radio explained.

Thus the medical association wants CR statistics properly explained, so that they can be compared with the hospitals that have been left out of the plan.

Reacting to the uproar, a source for the Ministry of Health said CRs were selected by a “technical commission”, though this will “re-evaluate” its choices.

The source added that patients already being treated at non-CR hospitals can continue their treatment. Only new patients will be transferred to CRs.

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