“We currently have 41 coronavirus patients here, but we can get an additional 25 if needed,” said internist Paolo Bettencourt of the huge private CUF hospital in Porto. This hospital is an oasis of peace. Patients lie in single rooms behind a yellow tape, where only registered nurses are allowed.
Bettencourt is upset by the debate in his country about the possibility of evacuating patients to other European countries. “I am very upset about that. Somehow it is not possible in Portugal to do anything from a common organization. We have space in hospitals, we can deal with this problem. But we don’t have politicians to solve this problem.”
Privatization of healthcare began decades ago in Portugal. This was followed by further cuts in healthcare under pressure from Europe during the economic crisis ten years ago. An additional boost to the private sector followed when foreigners discovered the “joy” of knee surgery under the Portuguese sun.
But more and more nurses are also leaving low-paying regular care to other European Union countries. As a result, the dichotomy between private and public care is becoming increasingly apparent.
The Spanish border is closed
At the moment, there is a lockdown in the southern European country to stem the new wave of pollution. Schools, which were kept open at first, are now closed. Flights to and from Brazil and the United Kingdom have been canceled and the only land border, the one with Spain, will be closed.
At São João Hospital, nurse Daniel Valenti looks around the ward, crowded with patients. What gives him energy in the end? He is referring. “All these people. The fact that these people are successful in healing. From here comes your strength.”