Survival of Portugal’s SNS State health service at risk – Order of Physicians

Doctors’ entity following negotiations between unions and government with “immense apprehension”

The Order of Physicians (Ordem dos Médicos) is “following negotiations between the unions and the Ministry of Health, which have been going on since last year, with immense apprehension”, reports State news agency Lusa today – considering that the survival of the SNS (State health system) is at stake.

President of the Order, Carlos Cortes, has said it is “following from a distance” – because the Order is not part of the negotiating table.

And he puts flesh on the bones of the issue, which has been badly confused by the government’s ‘announcement’ that it was offering doctors a pay rise of €917.10. It isn’t. This kind of rise is only offered IF doctors commit to what the government calls its ‘full dedication regime’, which syndicates claim removes doctors’ rights, and puts the safety of patients at risk.

Said Cortes, the reality of the government’s strategy is that “instead of actually recognising the importance of doctors, of creating mechanisms here that can attract and retain these doctors, what we see is once again more of the same…

“What’s at stake here is the survival of the national health service” (…) The service won’t survive with only investments in infrastructure and technological means, “which are obviously very important (…) the greatest value” is its professionals.

“In this specific case, it’s its doctors, so we need to invest in doctors, providing adequate pay, but also investing in working conditions so that doctors can concretely treat their patients, treat those who need healthcare,” he stressed.

In Carlos Cortes’ mindset the SNS “needs to be revitalised in terms of conditions to attract doctors” given the difficulties it currently has in terms of human resources.

Doctors’ unions and the Ministry of Health held an extraordinary negotiating meeting on Thursday, which again ended without agreement.

SIM, the Independent Doctors’ Union (SIM) is maintaining strikes scheduled for this month, while FNAM, the National Federation of Doctors has considered the “across-the-board increase of 3.6% (…) an insult to the entire profession”.

Yesterday, Minister of Health Manuel Pizarro “expressed surprise”  that it had not been possible to reach an agreement hoping for “a rapprochement of positions”.

These negotiations began in 2022, so this has been a long and bitter haul.

The next extraordinary negotiating meeting – according to the government “the last” – has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 12.

Source material: LUSA