Government reveals contingency plan to prevent SNS collapse in autumn

Marta Temido's office announced some measures that should prevent the collapse of the NHS at a time when the seasonal flu marks the return. The Ministry of Health will anticipate vaccination against seasonal flu early in October and strengthen intensive care and laboratories.

Santa Maria Hospital | Mário Cruz / Lusa

The circulation of Covid-19 at the same time as the flu virus, which causes floods in urgent cases every year, is among the most worrisome specialists, due to the pressure it will exert on the National Health System (SNS).

According to the news reported by “Expresso”, this Saturday, the Ministry of Health is now finalizing the “attack plan” for autumn / winter, after having met with all hospitals and Regional Health Administrations. The office de Marta Temido announces some of the measures, such as the anticipation for the beginning of October of the vaccination against seasonal flu, with priority for health professionals and home workers.

In addition, the newspaper says that it is still being considered for its free extension to pregnant women and new risk groups that are yet to be disclosed. In total, two million doses were purchased, 38% more than in 2019.

Fears of a huge influx of tests arise from the similarity of symptoms between the two viruses, which may delay the dissemination of results. For this reason, one of the pillars of the plan will also be “the expansion of the capacity of the network of laboratories for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2”, which requires an investment of 8,4 million euros, according to the Ministry. And to ensure the availability of testing, extraction and swab kits, the National Strategic Reserve will be monitored daily.

Part of the plan also involves the reorganization of the National Network of Intensive Care Medicine, where the number of beds will be reinforced, through expansion works, reorganized the waiting rooms, cafeterias and other common spaces of hospitals, to reduce capacities and guarantee protection professionals. These, too, may switch to a telecommuting regime to “decrease the teams' exposure”, informs the newspaper.

As for the number of health professionals, the ministry tells “Expresso” that “it is equipped with the legal instruments that will allow it, in terms of human resources, to face an increase in the demand for health care”. Since the beginning of this year, 1328 more nurses have been hired, and more will be employed until September.

To the newspaper, expert Manuel Carmo Gomes explains that between October and February Portugal will be at great risk, when there will be an exponential rise in cases in the NHS: an average of 60 hospitalizations per day, over three or four weeks, should result in a peak between 900 to 950 hospitalizations simultaneously, of which 15% are in intensive care, the expert says. Even so, this peak would be far from the more than 1200 hospitalizations recorded between late March and early April.

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