«It is the first time that, in Portugal, a private hospital goes public». This is how Paulo Neves, a member of the management of the Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Algarve (CHUA), summarized the contract that this Tuesday, January 25, was signed at Hospital de São Gonçalo, in Lagos, a unit that, from now on, , becomes part of the National Health Service (SNS).
And it was also in this way that, almost overnight, the city of Lagos came to have what councilor Sara Coelho described as “an old dream”: a public hospital with new facilities.
In formal terms, what was signed, between the presidents and several members of the Boards of Directors of both CHUA and the private group HPA Saúde, was a «contract for the assignment of contractual position between the HPA and the CHUA on the Hospital de São Gonçalo de Lagos", in reality a "transfer", as Paulo Neves also explained.
This means that, from now on and «little by little», the functions, equipment and even the medical and non-medical staff of the current hospital in Lagos – which is installed in a building owned by the local Misericórdia dated 1496 – will be transferred to this new space, that of the until now private Hospital de São Gonçalo, built in 2005 and equipped with modern facilities.
The current 500-year-old hospital building “does not have the minimum conditions to continue to function as such” and, in any case, the State paid a rent for its use. Now, the rent will be paid to Caixa Geral de Depósitos, owner of Hospital de São Gonçalo, but for decent facilities which, in addition to allowing the creation of two operating theaters in an SNS unit in Lagos, also allow, if to be necessary to increase the hospital capacity, to build another floor.
The new Lagos Hospital will be equipped with 44 inpatient beds, two Operating Rooms, Consultations, Laboratory, Imaging and Basic Emergency Service.
Ana Varges Gomes, chairman of the Board of Directors of CHUA, underlined that «today is a day of celebration for CHUA, but also for this entire population on this side of the Western Algarve, because since we took office, this administration knew that the facilities of the current Hospital de Lagos are not worthy of our professionals and our users, and therefore it was our duty to look for an alternative».
The idea of installing the public hospital in Lagos in the building of the previously private hospital came about in January 2021, when part of the São Gonçalo facilities were ceded by the HPA Group to CHUA, to create a ward for non-covid patients. “From March onwards, we started the talks, so that we can reach now, almost a year later, finally, to this moment”, underlined that official.
Basically, the move from the public hospital to these new facilities is not more than moving from a leased location, which was already in poor condition, to another, also leased, but with all the conditions. However, admitted Ana Varges Gomes, it was not easy to make the Ministry of Health understand and accept the exchange. That is why he praised the «patience» of the Board of Directors of the HPA Saúde Group, in the person of its chairman João Bacalhau, during these months of negotiations: «Patience, because it was a process, also because of its novelty for the tutelage, which took more time. Nothing like this has ever been done, which created more difficulties here».
Answering a question from Sul Informação, Ana Varges Gomes announced that the health team at Hospital de Lagos will be reinforced, since “we will have valences that, at the moment, will be possible here and that we did not have there in the old facilities, namely the operating rooms. But we will also reinforce the offer in terms of specialist consultations, bringing professionals to carry out these consultations in close proximity. This means that patients will not have to travel to Portimão».
When the Hospital de Lagos will be fully operational in its new facilities is not yet defined, at least it has not been announced. The CHUA president only admitted that the change will be made “gradually”.
And do these new facilities mean greater expense for the National Health Service? Sul Informação. Although without revealing the amounts involved, Ana Varges Gomes said yes, but underlined that «the conditions are also different, they are completely different things».
Councilwoman Sara Coelho, for her part, recalled that “this is an old battle, not only for the municipality of Lagos, but also for the other two that make up the Lands of Infante: Aljezur and Vila do Bispo”. This is because, he stressed, «it was public and recognized that our old hospital in Lagos no longer had the capacity to respond to needs, nor could the skills that it had lost over time be regained in that place».
As the CHUA president had already mentioned, “if we were going to build a new hospital, even if it were authorized, maybe even five years from now we would not have these facilities ready. In this way, we actually managed to have a new hospital, making real what was a pressing need».
And why only today, five days before the Legislative Elections, was this contract signed and the change announced?, wanted to know, once again, the Sul Informação.
Ana Varges Gomes assured that «it is a coincidence. Because we started the negotiations in March of last year and, since then, we have been waiting. It was necessary to speak with the minister, ask for the necessary opinions, ACSS, Secretary of State for Health, Secretary of State for the Budget…». This whole process culminated today, with the publication, in Diário da República, of the Decree on Extension of Charges. «Only with this Ordinance published could we sign the contract».
Furthermore, added Paulo Neves, the rent has already started to be paid by CHUA to CGD/SaudeInveste this January.
João Bacalhau, chairman of the Board of the HPA Saúde Group, took the opportunity, for his part, to underline the good relationship between the private group and CHUA, stressing the importance of Lagos having good public health facilities. «If we have a quality public hospital in the area, from the SNS, it is good for everyone. This healthy competition is important, even for us, because it forces us to raise the quality of our offer».
But the doctor and administrator assured that the HPA Group «does not leave Lagos», despite leaving São Gonçalo. «We are going to make a significant expansion to Hospital de Alvor, which will have more functional units. Therefore, here in Lagos, we no longer need such a large unit, but we will have a clinic to provide the necessary response to our customers in this area».
The HPA Saúde Group will reinforce its presence in the Barlavento region with the opening of two new units in the city of Lagos and another expansion to the Hospital Particular de Alvor. The units in Lagos will be dedicated to diagnosis and outpatient care, while the improvements at the HPA-Alvor will focus on the areas of Oncology, Ophthalmology, Special Exams, Operating Room and respective recovery.
«Lagos and this entire area of Barlavento are growing, so there must be adequate health responses», both public and private, framed João Bacalhau.
Or, as councilor Sara Coelho said, «the growth of health services is also the growth of the region, it will allow the region to develop at other levels, namely economic, with the benefit of all»
January 2021 | Through a lease agreement between ARS Algarve and HPA, pursuant to the Law on the declaration of a state of emergency, CHUA assumes the management, occupation and operation of the HSGL's inpatient floor, with up to 26 beds, with its own human resources to respond to SNS patients;
March 2021 | In a letter to the guardianship and in a face-to-face meeting with the Minister of Health, CHUA reports its interest in making efforts to carry out, in accordance with the HPA's principle, the transfer of the former Lagos hospital to the HSGL, if to achieve the same conditions operation of this unit with the CGD Real Estate Fund (owner of the premises);
August 2021 | In the presence of the Assistant SE and Health, on the anniversary of CHUA in Faro, the agreement is signed with the HPA and the internment of SNS patients at the HSGL is maintained until the conclusion of negotiations with CGD's Fundo SaudeInveste;
September 2021 | An agreement in principle was reached for the direct contractual renegotiation between CHUA and CGD and an understanding of the guardianships on legal competence for its conclusion, subject to the authorization of the assumption of multi-annual charges;
November 2021 | The request for Authorization of Multiannual Charges is submitted to the guardianships (health and finances);
December 2021 | Closing of the agreement with the HPA for the Assignment of Contractual Position;
January 2022 | Conclusion of negotiations with the CGD/Saude Investe fund;
January 25, 2022 | Signing of contracts between CHUA and HPA and then between CHUA and CGD/SaudeInveste, on 27 January, for the transfer and lease of the hospital unit exclusively for CHUA/SNS up to 44 beds, Operating Room, Consultations, laboratory, Imaging and Basic Emergency Service.
Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação and CHUA