Nurses demand to be paid what they were promised
Photos: MICHAEL BRUXO/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Tired and angry, Algarve nurses announce May 5 strike

Nurses demand to be paid what they were promised

Around 20 nurses held a protest outside Portimão Hospital this morning (April 21) against the “inaction” coming from the Algarve University Hospital Board (CHUA) and the Regional Health Authority (ARS Algarve).

The disgruntled health professionals accuse the entities of failing to fulfil their promises when it comes to career progression, an issue that sees nurses who have worked for several years – and in some cases over a decade – earning the same wages as nurses entering the job market for the first time.

Nurses in the Algarve are reaching their wit’s end and have been organising protests in Portimão and Faro every Thursday since the start of April, calling them ‘Indignation Thursdays’.

Nurses demand to be paid what they were promised
Photos: MICHAEL BRUXO/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

Another protest is scheduled at Faro Hospital on April 28 before nurses take their fight one step further with a region-wide strike on May 5.

Holding up signs calling CHUA and ARS Algarve “ungrateful” and demanding that they be paid what they were promised, the nurses say they have been given no choice.

“The situation is reaching its breaking point, not only because the issues aren’t being dealt with, but mostly because the institution (CHUA), which, at one point, recognised that the nurses’ entire employment years should be counted (for career progression), is the same institution which now does not want to recognise it and is taking money away from nurses,” Guadalupe Simões from the national nurses’ union (SEP) told the Resident at the protest.

But this is not the only issue at stake. The region continues to struggle with a chronic shortage of health professionals, and nurses are no exception.

“The Algarve continues to face a big problem when it comes to hiring nurses, but an even bigger struggle is retaining its nurses. Naturally, the absence of measures like the improvement of working conditions, and specifically the acknowledgement of their employment years, make the issue even worse,” said the nurse.

Nurses demand to be paid what they were promised
Photos: MICHAEL BRUXO/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

“In other words, nurses who work at CHUA do not know whether their years of service will be counted,” Simões said. “If we want nurses to stay here, we have to give them the conditions to do so.”

The SEP representative also lamented that incentives are given to doctors to retain them in “peripheral areas like the Algarve”, but not to nurses.

While nurses feel that their hard work is valued by the population, they lament that hospital administrations and health authorities, as well as the government and Ministry of Health, recognise the problems but don’t fulfil promises when it comes to raising salaries or allowing nurses to progress in their careers.

As Simões explained, nurses with individual work contracts account for around 50% of the workforce and continue to earn €1,201 – the same as nurses entering the job market for the first time – even though they have, in some cases, at least a decade of service under their belt.

Nurses continue to demand a meeting with CHUA.

“That is one of the goals of the strike. We asked for an urgent meeting and it still hasn’t been scheduled. We have a meeting scheduled for May 4 at the Ministry of Health, and one of the matters that will be discussed is the career progression points system,” said Simões, adding that even Prime Minister António Costa has acknowledged that nurses’ years of service should be taken into account when it comes to career progression.

“What we think of CHUA’s position is that it does not want social peace, it does not want to solve problems. They have left us with no choice.”

By Michael Bruxo
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com