Majority of respondents against possible closure of birthing blocks. 75% prefer to go to the health center if the response is faster.
More than three-quarters of the Portuguese are against the possible closure of public maternity hospitals and a quarter admit to protesting or participating in demonstrations, should that be the Government’s decision. At a time when emergency rooms at hospitals are at a high level, 75% of citizens say they would choose the health center if they could get an appointment there more quickly.
It is a warning to navigation. The eventual closure of public maternity hospitals, recommended by a group of experts to tackle the lack of obstetricians, is not to the liking of the majority and could bring a lot of opposition. The topic is being analyzed by the new executive director of the SNS and by the Ministry of Health and the decision should be taken in early 2023.
On the ground, the Aximage poll for JN, DN and TSF was to measure the pulse of the population: 78% of the Portuguese disagree with possible closures, 14% agree and 8% have no opinion. Directly penalized by possible closures, 81% of women disagree and 11% agree with the option. Among men, 74% say no to zips and 19% say yes.
To the question “if a maternity hospital in your region were to close down, how would you react?”, 34% of respondents answered that they would accept an alternative within the National Health Service (SNS), 30% would choose a private maternity hospital, 25% joined protests and/or manifestations and 11% indicated that they had no opinion. Among those who would choose to protest, it is men and young adults (18-34 years old) who stand out.
Looking at the political inclination – based on the vote in the last legislative elections – the issue of maternity hospitals is capable of taking to the streets supporters of the right and left: 39% of the respondents who voted Chega admit to participating in demonstrations, in the CDS they are 38%, in the CDU 36% and in PAN 35%. Among those who voted for the governing party (PS), only 25% admit they would react with protests. In the main opposition party (PSD), they are even less: 23%.
48% use SNS24 line
In a week of great pressure on hospital emergencies – the survey’s field work was carried out between November 25th and 30th -, the Portuguese were asked about their behavior in case of moderate illness.
In this situation, most respondents (48%) use the SNS4 line and 23% seek an open consultation at the health centre. Another 11% go to the emergency department of the public hospital and 10% go to the emergency department of the private hospital. A low number – but still significant (3%) because wrong – call INEM in case of moderate illness.
12% choose to go private
However, if the primary care response is timely, some choices change. If they have the opportunity to be seen by a doctor at the health centre, 75% of respondents say they prefer to go to the health centre, 12% say they continue to choose the private emergency and 9% insist on the public hospital emergency.
In the North and in the Porto Metropolitan Area (AMP), there are more users choosing primary care, if the response is quick, than in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (AML) and the South region and islands. Resorting to private urgency is a stronger option in the AML and South than in the North, AMP and Center.