Algarve national health crisis: a trip to the centre of the issue
Outdated facilities and shortages of medical professionals. It is the portrait of the SNS (National Health Service) in the most southern region of the country. José, 72, was admitted to the Emergency Department of Faro Hospital in mid-January. A cancer patient for a number of years, he had suffered a seizure and required urgent hospitalization last month.
However, instead of being placed on the Oncology ward, he was forced to remain on a stretcher in the Emergency Room, waiting for a vacancy. “At the time, they explained that there were about 60 people in the same condition, due to lack of space in the various specialties”, says José’s daughter. To make matters worse, as a tumour affected a nerve, José was unable to move his right arm and, therefore, was unable to feed himself. This led him to involve the Expresso newspaper.
At the hospital’s request, due to lack of staff, it was his wife and daughter who gave him his lunch and dinner during the two days that José waited until he was put to bed in the oncology service, performing a job that should’ve been done by nurses. “I have nothing to say about the people who treated my father, they were spectacular, but there simply weren’t any conditions”, concluded the daughter.
This episode with José perfectly explains the greater lack of confidence that residents of the southern region of Portugal have in the National Health Service (SNS), compared to the rest of the country. Few doctors in niche specialties, shortages of staff, aging facilities, and lack of space for users are all long-identified problems at the Centre of University Hospitals of the Algarve – which manages the Faro and Portimão hospitals, and the Lagos extension. Isilda Gomes, Mayor of Portimão (elected as a Socialist Party member), who has also chaired the hospital centre’s Advisory Council since September, says she “acknowledges” the disbelief of the Algarve in the SNS.
To explain her view, she highlights “the constraints of the last few years and the merger of hospitals in the hospital centre in 2013, without the urge to resolve the various problems”. The mayor, who for years has spoken out against this merger, admits that, now, “it will no longer make sense to separate hospitals again,” but she argues that it is important to “restore the dignity of services at Portimão Hospital”. She concluded that the “need to build a new, central hospital, as the Prime Minister has already recognized”, is paramount, reports the Expresso newspaper.