Brit expats in Portugal at risk from deteriorating healthcare services

Published:  9 Dec at 6 PM
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Tagged: UK, Canada, England
Expats in Portugal are worried about risks now evident in the country’s healthcare services.

Crises, deaths and delays in private as well as public hospitals are being reported, not just in the Portuguese capital Faro but also in medical care centres across the country. The situation first came to light when the capital’s major public hospital’s rundown A&E department was heavily criticised by surgeons, who’ve since boycotted extra working hours and overtime and are now planning a walkout starting on January 1.

According to the medical professionals involved, the department is providing degrading and unacceptable conditions stopping them from administering life-saving emergency medical treatment. Also condemned was the shortage of beds for emergency patients and the lack of urgent access to operating theatres as well as obstacles in using complementary diagnostic procedures. For several decades, Portugal has been a favourite destination for retired Britons, many of whom are now in extreme old age and needing frequent medical and surgical assistance.

The only official response to the medical professionals’ valid complaints was to hire agency doctors to cover the extra hours, a solution which has been tried without success on previous occasions. One medical specialist told local media surgeons need to follow-up their patients after surgery, with agency staff unwilling to provide this all-important aspect of care.

Just days after the situation in Faro was reported, the Portuguese health authorities released a damning report telling of similar failings in hospitals all across the country. Included in the criticisms was Portugal’s private sector, mentioned for its radiotherapy equipment failures leading to cancer patients waiting for days before another treatment rather than the daily treatments prescribed. Worse still were the reports of deaths caused by lack of attention and carelessness during hospital to hospital transfers of seriously ill patients.

The reports are striking fear into the hearts of UK expats who’ve chosen Portugal as a retirement haven, especially as British hospitals are now enforcing the rule that returning expats must wait for six months before being allowed to use their entitlement to NHS treatment. This ruling, along with the failure of the Portuguese system, is set to seriously affect expats who’ve decided to return to the UK after Brexit kicks in as they’re unable to afford private healthcare insurance or have been let down by local Portuguese hospitals.
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