Ophthalmological Center opened at Lagos hospital to end waiting lists

Innovative center serves the entire Algarve region

The mayors with the president of CHUA next to one of the new equipment – ​​Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

In the Algarve, there are around 10 thousand patients on the waiting list for an ophthalmology consultation, as well as close to 2500 waiting to undergo surgery within the scope of this specialty.

The data was revealed this Thursday to the Sul Informação by Ana Varges Gomes, president of the Board of Directors of the Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Algarve (CHUA), shortly before the inauguration of the first Ophthalmological Center in the region, which occupies part of the Terras do Infante Hospital, in Lagos.

She hopes that the new Center, which serves the entire Algarve region and started operating at the beginning of October, «will be able to recover the entire ophthalmology waiting list, within approximately one year».

The Center, which has two consultation rooms and two operating rooms dedicated to Ophthalmology, equipped with the most modern equipment, represents an investment of 1,2 million euros.

The president of CHUA highlighted that this is «an investment that was achieved with the support of the Municipalities», something that is also innovative «because it was the region that came together to solve a problem in the region». Of the 16 Municipalities in the Algarve, only those in Algarve did not contribute to the Ophthalmological Center Faro and Silves.

Ana Varges Gomes did not want to elaborate on the issue, saying only that «participation was not mandatory, it was a matter of will. These 14 were the ones who joined us».

And he clarified: «All people in the region will be treated, there is no discrimination. This center is for all users in the Algarve region». Full of optimism, she added: «when we finish the waiting lists, perhaps the Center will even be for users from other regions who may be in need too».


Full room – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


In a room full of mayors from across the region, António Pina, president of the Chamber of Olhão and the Intermunicipal Community of the Algarve (AMAL), highlighted that he is fed up with «we, the mayors, always being called upon to replace the functions of the Central State", financing investments like this, which should have been assumed by the Ministry of Health.

However, as the mayors are “incapable of saying no” and “there is no one more concerned about their citizens than the mayors”, the money appeared and the work was done… and it is already working.

Hugo Pereira, mayor of Lagos, recalled that «the challenge of creating this Ophthalmological Center was launched by the Administration of CHUA, initially, to Terras do Infante», an association of municipalities that only includes Lagos, Aljezur and Vila do Bispo.

But later, «given the size of the investment and the needs, the entire region got involved in this».

«Unfortunately, not everyone was there, but the vast majority of mayors agreed to support» the Ophthalmological Center operating at the hospital in Lagos, added the mayor.

In her speech at the inauguration, the president of the Administration of CHUA recalled: «we challenged a team of excellent doctors, who embarked on this project with us, who allowed us to build it, think about it, do it from scratch with the space we we had, adapt, we also had to adapt to each other and to the space we had».

«When we can take stock of one year of this unit, waiting lists will be a thing of the past, the waiting list that will exist will be a natural and acceptable thing, nothing like what we have now», predicted Ana Varges Gomes.

But what's new about this Ophthalmology Center? The person responsible for CHUA responded: «Firstly, all the equipment here is state-of-the-art, therefore, it is the most recent available».

But the very way in which the service is organized is innovative in terms of the National Health Service, as «the patient's circuit makes it possible to take advantage of all the time, there are no downtimes. The patient enters, is admitted, undergoes the pre-consultation tests, and then immediately leaves for a doctor's appointment. There will be no dead times. Therefore, in the end, it makes much more money,” he added.

«What is the advantage? We have a dedicated team, with dedicated offices, with two dedicated block rooms, while in other places there are shared block rooms, that is, competed for by all other surgical specialties. As we have few anesthetists, the distribution is always higher. Here there are two rooms dedicated just to ophthalmology».


One of the new operating theaters – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Ophthalmologist João Rosendo had to temporarily suspend his care for patients, when the new facilities were visited by mayors and journalists.

In response to a question from the Mayor of Aljezur, the doctor said that in the Terras do Infante area alone, that is, the municipalities of Aljezur, Lagos and Vila do Bispo, there are 1700 patients on the waiting list. «Apart from those in the rest of the region», he clarified.

And are these patients who have been waiting a long time? «This patient who was now being treated is from March 2020», she replied. More than three years waiting for an appointment... Cataract surgeries, for example, took between three and six months at CHUA.

The current team at the Algarve Ophthalmology Center, in addition to nurses and technicians, is made up of four doctors, all «in the 30s, 40s age range», added João Rosendo. «We have another colleague who is considering coming here, a little older, but with more experience in a specific area of ​​the cornea. Let’s hope that this happens in 2024».

One of the mayors who attended the inauguration of the new CHUA unit and whose Municipality contributed financially to the work was Francisco Amaral, mayor of Castro Marim and himself a doctor.

In fact, a doctor-mayor who was a pioneer, then as mayor of Alcoutim, in resolving the cataract problems of his residents, as he himself recalled to the Sul Informação: «in 1999, I contracted with a Faro and I sent 70 patients from my municipality, some people who had already been blind for four or five years, to undergo cataract operations». The unprecedented initiative of a City Council that replaced the Ministry of Health to solve problems that the latter could not provide a solution to, caused widespread outcry and controversy at a national level.

In such a way that «minister Manuela Arcanjo asked for my loss of mandate, arguing that I had exceeded my duties. As if my duties, as mayor, weren’t about solving people’s problems…».

What is certain is that «after three months, Manuela Arcanjo was no longer minister. And I, after all these years, am still mayor».

Today, more than solving the problem council by council, the solution involves everyone coming together, under the umbrella of AMAL. As the president of the Board of Directors of CHUA said, «if we continue to work together, we can put the Algarve on the map, showing that we, with the same money, can do much better, because for many, many years, we have been doing a lot with very little”.


Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues


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