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Portugal — Shortage of doctors leads to desperate measures

10 November 2009

The National Health Service of Portugal (SNS) has been accused of placing dentists, surgeons, urologists and 'recycled' retired doctors in the positions of family doctors out of desperation over a huge shortage of General Practitioners (GPs), Diario de Noticias reports.

The Managing Director of medical staffing agency Biotipo Medic admits that in several cases he has supplied several doctors to the SNS who are not qualified to work as GPs. He said "we have supplied general surgeons and gynaecologists instead."

The greatest shortage of GPs is in the Lisbon area, the Tejo Valley and the North.

Other staffing agencies such as Select and Gente Saudavel admit to having supplied retired GPs in order not to have to supply doctors who are not qualified for the specific job.

Hugo Silva, GP at Family Health Centre Amato Lusitano said "using doctors with the wrong qualifications increases the risks of making mistakes. Without the relevant training these doctors will not know how to treat high blood pressure, run diabetes programs and do effective cancer screenings."

Secretary of State for Health, Manuel Pizaro, admits that there are cases of wrongly qualified doctors working in family health centres but he says "given the lack of resources, a doctor with a different specialisation is better than no doctor."

However, Joao Sequeira Carlos, President of the Portuguese Association of General Practitioners (APMCG) disagrees with the Secretary of State. He said "at a time when the rest of the world is becoming more professional and more specialised, Portugal seems to be going backwards."



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