The Union of Pre-Hospital Emergency Technicians (STEPH) revealed today that earlier this week a 70-year-old man, after suffering several seizures, had to wait more than an hour for an ambulance, to be transported to Faro Hospital.
The incident took place on Rua do Alportel, just a few metres from Faro Hospital, where the elderly man remained on the ground for more than an hour, until it was possible to be transported by ambulance to the hospital.
President of STEPH, Rui Lázaro, told Lusa news agency, “A Technician of the Medical Emergency Motorcycle of Faro was on the scene swiftly, and after four convulsions (of the patient) suggested that the patient be transported to the CODU/Centers for Guidance for Urgent Patients be done in a private car, given the seriousness of the situation. The CODU however, ended up sending an ambulance after 55 minutes, which arrived [at the scene] an hour after the initial call”, explained the union official.
At the time of the incident, he also reported, the Emergency and Resuscitation Medical Vehicle (VMER) in Faro was also busy.
“Unfortunately, this was another case that confirms the alerts that the union has been making to the Ministry of Health and also to the parties with a seat in the Assembly of the Republic that prove the inexistence of means for emergency occurrences, caused by the lack pre-hospital emergency technicians and the lack of review of triage flows, which causes ambulances to be busy with non-urgent occurrences”, he said.
The lack of emergency technicians means, in turn, that “several dozen ambulances are not operational” due to the lack of human resources.
The union leader pointed out that STEPH has already denounced such problems during the peak of the covid-19 pandemic, with the chairman of the Board of Directors of Hospital de Santa Maria confirming that more than 80% of the patients who arrive at that hospital in INEM ambulances are not urgent cases.
“Since then, INEM has not reviewed the flows, continuing to send ambulances to situations with another type of report”, which could be resolved by referring them to the Saúde 24 line and to primary health care.
In a statement, STEPH adds that it “follows with great concern the various situations of delays in the dispatch of medical emergency ambulances”, regretting “deeply the tragic outcomes of some of these cases, as well as those that are not public knowledge”.
“The situation of the Medical Emergency in Portugal is currently unsustainable, very harmful for the country and for the Portuguese who need it”, warns STEPH.
He criticizes the “absence of common sense of State by leaders, who are absolutely incapable of drawing consequences from such regrettable and serious failures”.
On Sunday, STEPH announced that it will file a complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office about delays in the provision of assistance by INEM, including examples of occasions when ambulances took more than two hours to arrive.
The complaint covers all complaints that reach the union of medical emergency technicians about waiting times for sending INEM ambulances to an emergency service, including the recent situation reported by Jornal de Notícias, in which a woman over 80 years old waited over an hour this week in Lisbon for an ambulance from INEM.
According to the union, last Friday, a young man from a village inland of the country with a broken leg had to wait more than an hour for an ambulance.
Rui Lázaro also said that the complaint will focus “on the delays in aid, the commitment to life and to help the Portuguese and the inaction of INEM”, which “has not done anything” to correct this problem.
On Sunday, INEM announced that it had opened an investigation process to investigate the circumstances that led to the delay in pre-hospital care for the woman who spent more than an hour on the street waiting for an ambulance. INEM maintains that “there continues to be a very sharp increase in its activity”.