VRSA and Olhão unite to "Take care" of the population's health

Vila Real de Santo António and Olhão will no longer wait for the Government to solve some health problems with […]

Luís Gomes and António Pina Projeto CaringVila Real de Santo António and Olhão will no longer wait for the Government to solve some health problems faced by the population of these municipalities. The two Algarve municipalities created the first inter-municipal health care network in Portugal, which aims to guarantee rapid access to certain medical specialties to those who need it most and who have the least.

The «Care» project was launched this Thursday in Vila Real de Santo António and will focus, in a first phase, on the area of ​​ophthalmology. As part of this initiative, an ophthalmologist was hired and a contract signed with Hospital de Gambelas, of the Hospital Particular do Algarve (HPA) group, for the use of an operating room.

In VRSA, consultations begin on the 28th of July at the existing HPA clinic facilities there. In Olhão, they will only start in August, as they depend on the formalization of an agreement between the municipality and the Regional Health Administration of the Algarve, which will provide a space at the local Health Centre. This space will later be the target of small adaptation works.

"This will not be a universal service, as it will only be accessible to people in need, who do not have the financial capacity to access this health care by any other means," he said. VRSA social services will start receiving applications "soon", while in Olhão the process starts at the end of the month.

António Pina: “We cannot sleep well when we know that there are fellow citizens who need to be treated, sometimes with simple interventions”

The evaluation of who is eligible will be made “based on income declarations, similarly to what happens with other social responses from municipalities”.

For now, there is still no idea of ​​how many could benefit from this program. Even so, both mayors believe that, in this first phase, it will be possible to respond to all requests that arise, related to ophthalmology.

As for the choice of a private partner, in the hospital area, namely the Hospital de Gambelas, it was due to the fact that it was the entity that «made the best offer». Although there was an openness on the part of ARS to associate itself with this project, the same did not happen with Centro Hospitalar do Algarve.

The HPA was chosen after "a public tender", in which all "public and private entities that have operating theaters" were invited to participate. «The CHA never answered», revealed the mayor of VRSA Luís Gomes.


Project starts with a budget of 100 euros

Ophthalmologist António GasparThe initial budget of «Care» is 100 thousand euros per year, divided between the two Municipal Councils. This money will be used to pay the doctor António Gaspar, hired "full time" and any ophthalmological operations.

When it is public that having access to consultations and surgical interventions in some specialties of the National Health Service can be very difficult, at the Hospital de Faro, with waiting lists of 5 years or more, the two municipalities assume the responsibility of “solving people's problems”.

Also because, according to the mayor of Olhão, it is not as expensive as one would expect to cure someone of a disease like cataracts. “Each operation will cost an average of 300 euros”, he assured, adding that this surgical intervention takes “5 or 10 minutes”.

The solution to a problem that affects many residents of the two municipalities and that can lead to blindness is apparently simple. But this has not stopped people from losing their sight or even dying, without ever getting an appointment in the overstretched and under-staffed Human Resources Ophthalmology Service of the Hospital de Faro.

Luís Gomes and António Pina Projeto Caring_2It was, moreover, this situation that led the two municipalities to think about this “innovative way of sharing and optimizing resources”.
The initiative came from Luís Gomes, who approached António Pina with a view to starting the partnership in this area. “VRSA has already got us used to having an active attitude in the health area. But it was necessary to go further», illustrated the mayor from Olhão.

“We cannot sleep well when we know that there are fellow citizens who need to be treated, sometimes with simple interventions. Vision is the sense whose loss affects us the most, hence we started in the ophthalmological area», he added.

“Caring” starts with the eyes, but it won't stop there. In the pipeline is the extension of this program to other specialties, namely those in which the Hospital de Faro has more difficulty in responding, such as cardiology and dermatology, among others.

This “rock in the pond”, as António Pina calls it, is given by two councils that do not even cross borders and are led by executives of different party colors, in this case, PS and PSD.

"This partnership is fundamental to show that taking care of people is something that has no political parties or colors", said the socialist António Pina, while the social democrat Luís Gomes stressed that "this is a historic measure, which cannot but be understood as a signal to the country».