Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The halls were quiet and empty this past Wednesday in Portugal´s hospitals. Normally filled with crowds of bustling bodies, the hospitals were clear of physicians and other medical staff. This scene is just one example that highlights the European Union fiscal crisis and its affect on many parts of European society. Signs of the recession can be seen throughout the different industries, including the health care sector. In Portugal, thousands of doctors and nurses went on strike to bring awareness to cuts in the health budget.
According to BBC, the health ministry issued a warning that approximately 4,500 operations and 400,000 appointments could be cancelled due to the strike. The strike took place after the Portuguese government stated that it would work to reduce its budget deficit in accordance with the 78 billion Euros European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout last May. Many unions mentioned doctors´ complaints of excessive hours.
“I’m here to protest the destruction of the health service and the end of medical careers,” noted 25-year-old internist Eloisa Sobreira in an AFP article.
Other physicians mentioned their dislike of the use of private companies to offer public services
“The national health service is under threat. They want to destroy it by creating disparities in who has access to care,” stated Miguel Cunha, a 49-year-old pediatrician, in the AFP article.
The unions also stated that the measures taken by the physicians and nurses will affect the poor, as many people cannot pay for the increasing cost of health care.
“Thousands of people are now deprived of care because they cannot afford the prices that were put in place in January,” Carolos Braga, representative for patients´ group in Lisbon, told the BBC.
Many patients in Lisbon were unsure if they would receive medical care on Wednesday.
“I am due to have an operation today but I don’t know if it is going to happen. I have been told to wait,” Lidia Goncalves remarked in an AFP article.
The strike is planned to go for 48 hours and many hospitals have rescheduled appointments ahead of the strike.
“I called yesterday but they couldn’t tell me if I would be seen. This morning they told me to go home and that they would contact me soon,” commented Manuel Silva in the BBC article.
Portugal has already taken many actions in response to the recession. Earlier this month, there was a proposal to limit extra holiday pay for government workers but it was ruled as unconstitutional. As well, the country eliminated its public sector wages and increased taxes to decrease its budget deficit. The government hopes that these actions will curb the economic crisis, as the EU and IMF have already praised Portugal for taking these steps.
However, unemployment is still high and citizens are still dealing with reduced incomes in the EU. The news of the Portuguese strikes by medical professionals follows the austerity measures unveiled by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Spain. According to the New York Times, the austerity measures are unpopular with the country and the nation´s miners held a violent protest to show their dissent. Only time will tell if the actions prove beneficial or not.