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Hospital emergency rooms under pressure

The Minister of Health has called on citizens to first call INEM (in urgent cases) or SNS24 (in less serious cases) before going to hospitals.

Hospital emergency services in Portugal are under severe pressure, especially in the Lisbon region, due to the peak of the flu season. The Beatriz Ângelo Hospital, in Loures, currently has the longest average waiting time in the country: 18 hours for urgent patients (i.e. those with yellow wristbands).

The Minister of Health has stated that the SNS24 line has received “more than 62 thousand calls” since December 26, warning that “the next two weeks will be the most difficult period for seasonal flu”. 

He cited the example of the Coimbra Hospital and University Center (CHUC), which on Tuesday registered “great pressure on the emergency room with more than 700 visits”.

“Still, for the first time and on a day that was not a normal work day, the health centers were open and provided 356 visits, which means that we managed to get a third of people treated in primary health care. This is what we have to do gradually”, he detailed.

The minister recognizes that “when there are very large flows it is more difficult for care to be provided promptly”, but points out that “globally the Portuguese are very well cared for in the NHS, including in emergencies”. However, he warns: “The next two weeks will be the most difficult period for seasonal flu.”

Meanwhile, the birth rate in Portugal increased for the second year in a row. Until November 2023, 79,078 babies were born - up 2,386 from 2022. Unsurprisingly, Lisbon and Porto registered the most births followed by Setúbal, Braga and Faro.

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