People’s access to health care and the attraction and retention of health professionals are, for Constantino Sakellarides, the two main current problems of the National Health Service (SNS).
Distinguished this Tuesday by the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) with the 2019 National Health Award, the former director-general of Health Constantino Sakellarides believes that the solution will involve a multi-annual investment in the SNS and cooperation between the public sectors, private and social.
Professor Constantino Sakellarides told JN that he considers that one of the current health problems is people’s access, both to primary care, in certain regions, and to hospital care, “where conditions have deteriorated considerably in the last ten years”.
“If the SNS does not give access to people, it does not fulfill its essential function” warned the former consultant to the Minister of Health.
On the other hand, he underlined the importance of attracting and retaining health professionals, recognizing the existence of problems with regard to working conditions and remuneration. Thus, he considers it essential to create more attractive working conditions for professionals.
To resolve these challenges, he argues, a “different organizational response” is needed. Constantino Sakellarides said he believes in the need for multi-year investment in the SNS, that is, with a horizon of several years. “Many of these problems are not resolved in a year or two,” he warned.
In addition, it considers necessary a “transparent strategic follow-up of cooperation with the private and social system”, through an information model capable of addressing the issues raised in a systemic way.
“We cannot have a system that separates the parts: primary health care, hospital care… It is the old tradition that divides to treat!”, criticized the former director general of Health.
Constantino Sakellarides recognizes the great complexity of these systems and, therefore, believes that “intelligence must be distributed and collaborative”. Thus, he believes that there cannot be a reform in hospitals if there is not also a reform in other health care.
“It’s asking a lot but it’s asking for what is necessary”, concluded the former president of the European Association of Public Health.
This Tuesday, the DGS delivers the 2019 National Health Award to Constantino Sakellarides, “for his remarkable academic and professional career and for his brilliant career in various sectors of the health system”, reads in a statement.
DGS adds that Constantino Sakellarides’ contributions were “valuable for improving the efficiency and quality of the Portuguese health system and for the prestige of Public Health in Portugal”.
Emeritus Full Professor at the National School of Public Health at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, of which he was also director, Constantino Sakellarides graduated in Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Lisbon. He earned his Master’s and Doctor’s degrees in Epidemiology and Public Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health.
Constantino Sakellarides was Director for Health Policy and Services at WHO/Europe, Director-General for Health from 1997 to 1999, and President of the European Public Health Association.
Between 2016 and 2018, he was responsible for designing and coordinating the “SNS + Proximidade” initiative, as a consultant to the Minister of Health. He was a founding member and first president of the Fundação para a Saúde-SNS.
According to the DGS, the National Health Award aims to annually distinguish a personality who, due to his relevance and excellence in the field of Health Sciences, has contributed to the achievement of health gains or to the prestige of health organizations within the scope of the SNS.