Portuguese health minister resigns amid healthcare system crisis

Pregnant woman recently died after being transferred away from hospital.

Portuguese health minister resigns amid healthcare system crisis

Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido resigned on Tuesday amid a growing number of scandals related to health care staff shortages and overflowing hospitals.

Temido, who was in charge since 2018, did not specify why she quit but said she “no longer has the conditions” to hold the position.

On Monday, it was reported that a pregnant woman died after going into cardiac arrest while being transferred away from Lisbon’s largest hospital due to its maternity ward being full. After an emergency C-section, the baby survived.

In June, a similar scandal occurred when a baby died in a hospital where the emergency obstetric services were closed due to staff shortages.

In August, Portugal’s licensing body for medical practitioners (OM) pointed out that Portugal has the highest excess mortality levels in the EU and blamed problems on the crumbling health care system.

“There were a lot of patients who couldn’t get diagnosed during the pandemic … and who still haven’t received medical attention,” said OM head Miguel Guimaraes in a statement. “We continue with a high number of people without a family doctor and with long waiting times for surgeries and appointments.”

Portuguese doctors also demand better working conditions and have slammed the health ministry’s new plan to recruit non-specialists for health centers and ask doctors to work more.

In a Monday press conference, Guimaraes also warned that around half of Portugal’s doctors are leaving the national health services and the status quo “runs the risk of having emergency departments without doctors available to work.”

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted Temido’s resignation, and thanked her for her work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the opposition party PSD said her resignation came too late, and what matters now is a radical change in the government’s health care policies.