The new president of the Ordem dos Médicos today made a “worrying assessment” of health in Portugal, with the response of the National Health Service (SNS) based on emergencies “in difficulties” and with a “navigation in sight” management.
“The SNS is sinking under a system that bases a large part of its response on a hospital emergency service in difficulties, undervaluing the indispensable role of primary health care, disease prevention, promotion and health literacy”, said Carlos Cuts in his inauguration.
In his speech, the substitute for Miguel Guimarães at the head of the Ordem dos Médicos (OM) stressed that the reality of the health sector shows a “worrying balance”, in which “repeated euphemistic interventions are no longer able to hide what is in the eyes of everyone, especially doctors and patients”.
The new chairman, elected on February 16 in the second round disputed with Rui Nunes, cited data that place Portugal, within the scope of the OECD, “very outstanding in first place” in the use of hospital emergencies.
“Increasingly, the need for health care in Portugal – regardless of its severity and nature – is funneling into emergency services open 24 hours a day, for lack of viable alternatives”, warned the clinical pathologist, for whom “no country of the world resists this degree of urgency of the entire health system”.
As he said, waiting lists for surgery and consultations “grow exponentially over time”, due to insufficient human resources, but also due to the lack of operating rooms or consultation offices.
In addition, according to Carlos Cortes, who said that he is still waiting for the “words of affection about the SNS to really take shape”, the State Budget foresees 6.8% of GDP for public expenditure on health, 2% below the average European economy, and with “successive years of under-budgeting”.
“There is no survey of the needs and shortcomings that allows for true economic, strategic and human resource planning. In health management, the archaic principle of visual navigation is maintained, without any medium or long term perspective, or even beyond an electoral mandate”, lamented the president of doctors.
Regarding the career and working conditions of doctors, Carlos Cortes said it was “impossible to ignore the difficulties” experienced by these professionals, who are still subject to “remuneration incompatible with their high degree” of differentiation and responsibility.
This impact is still felt in the “lack of adequate working conditions in hospitals and health centres, demotivating elements that accompany the difficulty of attracting and retaining the medical human resources necessary for the functioning of the SNS”, he stressed.
For the chairman, the review and approval of the new Framework Law for Professional Associations will not be able to “silence doctors, nor the intervention of the Order of Physicians in defending the technical quality of Medicine”.
In his first official intervention with chairman, Carlos Cortes also assumed the commitment of “building bridges, valuing dialogue and building, or helping to build, the solutions that the country needs”, assuring that he will not be available for the “permanent conflict “, but which will be “permanently demanding”.
He announced that he will propose, within the scope of the OM, the creation of a National Center for Medical Evidence and Health Research to defend the best medical intervention, stimulate research and combat practices without scientific evidence.
“I want to propose the creation of General Health States in Portugal, which will involve the OM with all its doctors, from the public, private and social sectors, from north to south of the country, from the interior, from the coast and from the autonomous regions, with the objective of making an accurate portrait of the state of health and presenting a detailed report, pointing out solutions and a strategy for building a new model adapted to the demands of society”, he advanced.
He also added that the order should expand its traditional space of intervention, getting involved in the areas of health determinants and in all aspects that alter physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease, as defined the World Health Organization.
Carlos Cortes is the 16th president to assume office in the order’s 84 years of existence, after having won the elections with 61.94% of the votes.