Algarve hospitals risky for expat heart attack patients

Published:  11 Oct at 6 PM
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If you’re planning to retire to Portugal and have heart problems, it’s best to avoid the Algarve.

Portugal is a favourite destination for expat retirees from the UK due to its reasonable cost of living, good weather and affordable property, with the Algarve already home to a sizeable expat community. Unfortunately, one statistic which hasn’t as yet featured in either the British media or local papers is bad news for expat residents at risk of having a heart attack. A recent study has revealed as many as 30 per cent of heart attack patients in the Algarve’s state-run hospitals don’t survive the experience.

It’s not surprising that the results of a doctoral thesis have been hidden from view by the Portuguese health authority until now, as the author of the thesis went to a great deal of trouble to get his numbers crunched in warning. Analysis of over 38,000 patient records originating from 37 state-run hospitals in the Algarve formed the thesis, covering the years 2012 to 2015. Researcher Mariano Lobo designated hospitals in the Lisbon, Alentejo, Vale do Tejo and Algarve regions, discovering heart attack patients had a 30 per cent higher chance of dying from serious heart attacks, with even those who’d managed to survive likely to be readmitted on an emergency basis less than a month after they’d been discharged.

One reason for the scary statistics seems to be that larger state-run hospitals in more populated regions provide far less care for victims of heart attacks than do small rural hospitals, although that’s not much comfort for the unlucky patients and their families. For expats, the hospital network is biased towards private, health insurance-funded treatment, with the state-run services catering mostly for local people. In general, articles on expat-aimed websites praise private healthcare for its focus on personalised patient care, English language communication, privacy and comfort, but many retired expatriates on state pensions don’t have the means to afford expensive private health insurance.
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