Around 500 doctors unavailable for overtime if negotiations fail

500 doctors signed an open letter addressed to the Minister of Health

Around 500 doctors signed an open letter addressed to the Minister of Health in which they express their unwillingness to work overtime above the legal limit, if the Government and unions do not reach an agreement in the next negotiations.

In this open letter, launched by the Doctors in Struggle movement, the signatories warn that, in the absence of understanding between the unions and the Government by the end of this month, "they will assert their declaration of unavailability to provide additional work" in addition to the limit to which they are bound by law as of July 1st.

According to the Labor Code, doctors must perform 150 hours of overtime work per year or 250 hours if they are part of the full dedication regime.

Speaking to Lusa, doctor Helena Terleira, from the inorganic movement that promotes the initiative, said that around 500 doctors from hospitals and specialists in general and family medicine (family doctors) have already signed the letter, but highlighted that the number of clinicians who submitted the draft for unavailability of overtime is superior.

Doctors still "hope that negotiations with the unions can go well and that, in fact, it is not necessary to use this form of protest", said Helena Terleira, for whom a "very difficult" summer in the country could be at stake. National Health Service (SNS).

This is because, the doctor claimed, the possible unavailability to work more overtime from July onwards is combined with health professionals' holidays.

«It is now a period of the year when it is very difficult to make stopovers and, in some places, it is already having repercussions on the possibility of some emergency services being closed just because of the holidays. If we add the minutes to this, in fact, it will be a very difficult summer», he warned.

If the Government does not reach an agreement with the unions, the open letter states that the unavailability to provide additional work will have a “negative impact on the dynamics of health services”, which are “clearly dependent on the overtime work of doctors”.

«Current working conditions have negatively impacted the mental, physical health and quality of life of all health professionals», also highlights the document promoted by the movement that was born on social media in 2023 and brought together seven thousand clinicians in a protest which paralyzed several emergencies at the end of the year, particularly during the Christmas period.

Last week, the Portuguese Association of Hospital Administrators considered it “very likely” that hospitals will again face operational difficulties this summer, taking into account that they continue to struggle with a lack of healthcare professionals to fill emergency rosters.

Negotiations between medical unions and the Ministry of Health will continue at the end of the month, after at the meeting held on May 24th the two union structures refused to sign the negotiating protocol, that is, the definition and terms of the matters to negotiate between the two parties.

The Independent Doctors' Union (SIM) and the National Federation of Doctors (Fnam) want these negotiations to be speedy and have already warned that they will not give up on including in the negotiating protocol matters such as the review of salary scales and the evaluation system, but also the replacement of 35 hours of work per week and the integration of interns into a medical career.