Portugal: Half of country has no access to rheumatologist in national health

Almost half of Portugal's citizens have no access to a rheumatologist in public hospitals, with just five units of the national health service with a full range of specialists, the Portuguese Society of Rheumatology has said

Lisbon – Over recent months the society assessed the capacity of public hospitals and concluded that 51.8% of Portugal does not have access to a rheumatology specialist because of a shortfall in the hospital network coverage.

In an interview with Lusa, the head of the society, Luís Cunha Miranda, stressed that there are only five hospitals in the national health service with a full range of specialists: Santa Maria, West Lisbon hospital centre, Garcia de Orta hospital, Ponte de Lima hospital and São João Hospital, in Porto.

Over 40% of public hospitals do not have a single specialist in rheumatology. This means that 5 million people, half of which have a rheumatic disease, do not have access to a specialist in the national health service.

According to the society, public hospitals lack at least 80 specialists to cover the needs of the population.

Miranda noted that 56% of the Portuguese population have rheumatic complaints, and it is estimated that 35% of patients do not know they have a rheumatic disease.

He also added that rheumatic diseases have a huge social and economic impact. In terms of early retirement, rheumatic diseases cost the state more than €900 million per year, which means 0.5% of the country’s GDP.

Absenteeism caused by rheumatic diseases results in losses of about €200 million per year.