Portuguese nurses strike over pay, working hours
Nurses in Portugal began Thursday a 48-hour strike over pay, working hours and what they say is an acute shortage of staff in the public health service, disrupting elective surgeries at hospitals.
The Portuguese Nurses Union said around 75 percent of nurses at public hospitals walked out on Thursday in their third national strike this year over the same issues.
Media reported the cancellation of many routine operations and some treatments like vaccinations, though most appointments with doctors went ahead.
Portugal’s financial crisis compelled the government to slash spending. That included pay cuts and longer hours for public employees, including nurses.
The union says many nurses have quit and joined the private sector or gone to work abroad. Those that remain are required to work overtime to ensure services are provided, often without pay, it adds.
Nearly 13,000 nurses have left Portugal during the past five years to work abroad, mainly to Britain, Switzerland and Germany, according to the Portuguese Order of Nurses, which represents nursing and midwifery graduates.
“Poor working conditions are forcing our nurses out of the country,” the president of the Portuguese Nurses Union, Jose Carlos Martins, told journalists.
Portugal has 6.0 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to 5.1 in neighbouring Spain and 8.2 in Britain, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).