Three-year wait to see a specialist

WAITING LISTS for appointments in Faro hospital are up to three years, the highest in the country.

Cardiology and urology referrals from medical centres to the hospital can sometimes mean that patients do not see specialists for more than two years and, in some cases, three years. Neurosurgery and dermatology waiting lists can also be up to two years. Ophthalmology and orthopaedics departments are not even taking appointments as the specialists are unable to cope with demand.

The population increase, as well as the lack of clinics on the national health service are some of the reasons given by the Sindicato dos Médicos da Zona Sul, the doctor’s union for the south of Portugal, to explain this problem.

Many doctors and specialists also prefer to work for private hospitals, where the salaries are significantly higher. A spokesperson for the union accused the Minister for Health, Correia de Campos, of “encouraging doctors and surgeons to leave state hospitals” due to the state of the current system and the low pay.

The regional health authority, Administração Regional de Saúde do Algarve (ARS), has admitted this flaw and intends to remedy the situation with a new information system, which will come into effect in February.

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There are fears that with the new system, specialist services will be scrapped altogether in hospitals, but this has been rebuked by ARS Algarve, whose president, Rui Lourenço, said the hospitals in Faro and Portimão will be linked directly to the medical centres across the region, as part of the Alert-P1 plan.

Less administrative referrals will reduce waiting times as people will be referred on a clinical basis. Those waiting for specialist treatment will, in the meantime, be monitored on a regular basis by doctors from medical centres.

Few believe this will work since it has been well documented that the medical centres across the Algarve are already unable to cope with patients’ needs.

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