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Portugal’s hospitals overflowing as contagion increases

Lack of beds, staff, even oxygen has put major pressure on healthcare system, particularly in Lisbon region

Alyssa McMurtry   | 27.01.2021
Portugal’s hospitals overflowing as contagion increases FILE PHOTO

OVIEDO, Spain

Portuguese Health Ministry registered 15,073 additional infections and a record 293 coronavirus deaths Wednesday as the situation in several hospitals becomes increasingly critical.

The daily infection figure threatens to put more pressure on the nation’s besieged healthcare system.

Alexandre Valentim Lourenço, the head of the southern chapter of Portugal’s General Medical Council (Ordem dos Medicos), said hospitals in the Lisbon region are reaching the point where they are unable to accept new patients.

“Our biggest worry isn’t just the deaths from COVID, but also that these hospitals are less able to respond to other diseases that are just as bad or even worse,” he told Portugal’s Lusa agency.

“Right now, we have pediatricians helping adults, doctors specialized in other issues treating patients with pneumonia from COVID,” he said. “We aren’t doing what’s best but we’re doing what’s necessary.”

Late Tuesday, 53 patients had to be transferred from the Amadora-Sintra Hospital in the Lisbon region after the hospital’s oxygen supply began to run out.

“Oxygen is a little bit like water: if you have a lot of people using it at the same time, it loses pressure,” Luis Pisco, health director of the Lisbon and Tagus Valley region, told Portugal’s radio TSF.

He said the hospital will not be able to receive more patients until the end of the week.

And although hospitals around Lisbon are increasingly unable to accept new patients, lines of ambulances wait for hours outside to drop off COVID-19 and other patients.

Although it has not been made official, Portugal has begun to ask the international community for help, O Expresso newspaper reported.

According to the daily, the country is asking European countries to send healthcare staff and equipment like needles and ventilators. At the same time, Portugal is requesting to be able to send patients to other countries for treatment.

Portugal has been on full lockdown since Jan. 15, though rules were tightened last week and schools were also closed. The stay-at-home orders were lifted briefly Sunday as Portuguese voted in presidential elections.

The country of 10 million has lost 11,305 citizens to the virus. Nearly 40% of all deaths have occurred this month.

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