Outpatient pharmacies were closed and delays in treatment were the main signs of the strike.
This Wednesday, the second period of the National Health Service (SNS) pharmacists’ strike ends, without any call for negotiations by the government. Henrique Reguengo, president of the National Federation of Pharmacists, who called the strike, says he remains hopeful negotiations will move forward soon. “It is inconceivable that this is not the case,” he says. Ensure minimum urgent care services.
It was the first time NHS pharmacists had gone on strike in 30 years, and membership has consistently been “above 90%”, the union boss assures. Professionals are tired of waiting for decades-old problems to be resolved, involving the need to hire more professionals (an independent study reports a 25% shortfall, union leader says), salary review, and job and occupation assessment. “Since 1999 we have had an unrevised schedule and we have 80% of our professionals based on their career and lack of professionals. This results in overwork, under pressure, which leads to error. People lack enthusiasm, they haven’t seen any progress since 1999” , complain.
Although there has been no contact yet from Minister Manuel Pizarro’s team, Henrique Reguengo says he is still hopeful that negotiations with pharmacists will begin, now that the strike is coming to an end. “Governments do not like to give the impression that they are negotiating under pressure, and I hope that is why we have not yet been contacted. The Ministry is negotiating with other professional professions, and they are not doing it with us,” he says.
However, the trade union leader regrets that any dialogue with the ministry did not take place in time for the ongoing discussion on the state budget. “I am concerned that while the state budget is being negotiated, measures affecting pharmacists have not been contemplated. There is no reference in the document to our career, ”he assures.
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The stoppage of SNS pharmacists has caused the closure of outpatient pharmacies in hospitals (although urgent medication has been dispensed). The minimum services in progress also did not guarantee the continuation of the cancer treatments that were to begin on the days of the strike (although the treatments in progress were not affected).
This fact led the Minister of Health to criticize the pharmacists and apologize to the Portuguese who was involved in this situation. Manuel Pizarro’s statements were criticized by the Union and the Pharmacists Union, as the former said in a statement: “We are very surprised that the Minister of Health does not have the same concern for postponing and continuing with these same treatments , when they are postponed or interrupted due to lack of human resources, equipment or means of diagnosis Complementary or adequate logistic conditions for the administration of therapies.
Arguments were exchanged during the first phase of the strike, in October, when the Portuguese Institute of Oncology (IPO) in Lisbon admitted that it had to reschedule in the days after the strike some first-cycle cancer treatments (which were ongoing to start), stating, however, that, in a statement, he noted that “every day there are cancer treatments that are being rescheduled for clinical reasons.”
This Wednesday, PÚBLICO questioned the IPOs of Lisbon and Porto about the possible implications of this strike. A response from the former is still awaited, but Porto’s IPO made it clear, already during the afternoon, that although the commitment was “significant (95%), […] it did not harm the implementation of the planned treatments for the patients.” “So far there is no record of deferred scheduled treatments at An-Nahar Hospital. All planned treatments have been carried out, despite the actual record of delay,” the board said in a written response.
The greatest impact was in the outpatient pharmacy that was closed to the public, however, as already happened in October, there was no interruption in the delivery of urgent medicines, which was guaranteed with a minimum of continuous services.