PORTUGAL: Portugal’s Health Minister Marta Temido resigned from her post on Tuesday following intense criticism and backlash of her decision to temporarily suspend emergency obstetric operations, forcing risky transport of pregnant women between hospitals.
The Health Ministry confirmed in a statement that Temido refused to continue in her post as she had given up faith in her professional capacity and “realised that she no longer had the conditions to remain in office”.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa also stated the grave issue and said that he had accepted Temido’s resignation and thanked her for her efforts, which included conducting a well-organized vaccination drive against COVID-19.
The government was compelled to dispatch the measure of shutting down various obstetric clinics across the country, especially at weekends, since several hospitals were not equipped with enough doctors or medical staff during the summer holidays.
Opposition parties and other municipalities have criticized Temido’s decision because pregnant women are at risk of repeated trips to the clinics, which are often located far away.
Temido’s resignation was perhaps influenced by reports indicating that a pregnant woman died on Saturday after suffering a cardiac arrest during an ambulance transfer from Lisbon’s main hospital, Santa Maria. The woman was forced to travel to another hospital for obstetric attention after Santa Maria refused to provide neonatology services due to zero vacancies.
The 48-year-old Temido became health minister in October 2018, and last year was on the list of the most popular members of the centre-left Socialist government owing to her great service in the COVID-19 vaccination drive, as per opinion polls.
However, she eventually lost her star status due to inadequate staffing and other problems at public hospitals and after thousands of doctors presented the so-called refusal of responsibility, citing poor working conditions and extreme fatigue.
Public demonstrations against the health minister had already begun earlier this month, with many distraught citizens claiming they had lost confidence in Temido. Groups representing health officials, and hospital staff including Portuguese doctors and nurses have also been part of the protests and are critical of Temido’s policies.
Although Temido’s dismissal was inevitable, a replacement is not likely to be found so easily.
A source close to the prime minister has been quoted by Lusa (State news agency) as saying, “The prime minister would like it to be Marta Temido to take the diploma regulating the new executive management of the SNS to the Council of Ministers” which is not scheduled until September 15.
The PM described it as “fearing that the replacement of Marta Temido will delay approval of the diploma” which he believes is a “central piece of health service reform” albeit many others have said it is fairly pointless.