More Than 1,000 Portuguese Doctors Sign Letter Refusing To Work Overtime

Image of doctor taking a patient's blood pressure.

Image of doctor taking a patient's blood pressure. Credit: Monkey Business Images/

More than 1,000 doctors signed a letter sent on Friday, September 1, to Portugal’s Minister of Health, Manuel Pizarro.

Those signing the document warned of their refusal to work more than the mandatory 150 annual hours of overtime if the current negotiating impasse with the sector does not come to an end.

Helena Terleira, a doctor at Santa Luzia Hospital, in Viana do Castelo, explained to the Lusa news agency that the document was sent to the email address of Pizarro’s office.

It was signed: ‘by a total of 1,045 doctors from across the country, 187 of whom work at the Alto Minho Local Health Unit (ULSAM)’, she detailed.

A scheduled meeting was brought forward

The Ministry of Health informed Lusa that last Thursday, the Government brought forward the negotiation round with medical unions for the final presentation of the diploma on the generalisation of model B family health units and full dedication.

This meeting with the doctors’ unions had originally been scheduled for September 11 but was subsequently brought forward to September 7, in order to speed up the negotiations.

It is hoped that the file can be closed and the diplomas published so that doctors can start receiving more pay in the family health units (USF) or join the new full dedication regime later this year, as reported by

The unions involved have a low expectation of an agreement

When contacted by Lusa, the Independent Union of Doctors (SIM) and the National Federation of Doctors (FNAM) said that they had already been notified of the anticipated meeting, but that expectations of reaching an agreement were very low.

The collection of signatures for the open letter sent to Manuel Pizarro was initiated by ULSAM doctors on August 19.

It expressed their: ‘Unavailability to work more than 150 overtime hours, if there are no proposals at the meeting scheduled between the Ministry of Health and the medical unions that value the medical career and, consequently, the National Health Service (SNS)’.

‘We are aware of the consequences of this form of struggle and the serious constraints on the functioning of hospitals, in particular the emergency service. We are also responsible and very resilient doctors’, continued Helena Terleira.

‘We will only use this form of struggle if we are forced to. It is up to the Minister of Health, also a doctor, to write the rest of the story’, stressed the doctor.

September emergency service schedules are already without overtime

Terleira pointed out that: ‘ULSAM doctors have already delivered the September emergency service schedules without overtime, where there are shifts without internal medicine and general surgery coverage’.

‘We ask colleagues who have adhered or will adhere to this measure to inform their respective service directors and the boards of directors so that they are aware and can act accordingly’, she specified.

The doctor lamented that: ‘At a time when we are talking about the major restructuring of the SNS, the human resources on which the SNS depends are so devalued. Without a medical career, fairly paid and valued, there is, and will not be, any reform that will save the SNS’.

Doctors: ‘Call for a review of salary scales, with a decent base salary for everyone, and better working conditions, and they no longer want overtime’, she added.

In August, when the collection of signatures from doctors was initiated, when contacted by Lusa, a source from the Ministry of Health stated that: ‘The Ministry of Health is deeply committed to the negotiation process with the medical unions’

‘The Ministry of Health takes good note of the aforementioned letter, but, as the negotiation process is ongoing, a public statement on the same letter would be untimely’, they told Lusa.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at