We overcome our opinions in a crisis

It seems that Jean Monnet’s prophecy continues to come true: “Europe is forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted to respond to crises”. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has plunged Europe – all of Europe and indeed the whole world – into an unprecedented health crisis over the past 100 years, with many social and economic consequences.

At first, unilateral action prevailed in shock (there was talk of distracting fans, banning the export of medicines, speculative purchase of personal protective equipment, etc.), but luckily it was immediately clear that it was a common and problem together we would solve it better.

The pandemic had waves and did not reach all countries at the same time, which made it possible to learn from others and adjust resources as needed.

In the Portuguese case, the first wave was relatively harmless, the second hit us in October in the north of the country and shortly afterwards we entered this tougher phase in which we have had more than 1000 new cases per million inhabitants for several days since mid-December. This is a time of great tension in the health system, with unprecedented numbers of inpatients and intensive care needs.

Portugal had some fragile starting conditions, namely marked aging and dependency of the population and an installed capacity in the health system that was below the European average (in terms of beds, intensive care unit and nurses per 100,000 inhabitants).

In a particularly difficult situation, the entire system is fully geared towards the needs of the citizens. In Portugal there is an ideological bias against private participation in health, but in a country with limited resources it is even more important that no capacity is wasted.

Private hospitals will be available from the very first hour to participate in the national fight against Covid-19 and to work with the NHS, as the authorities deem appropriate. In addition to providing equipment and hospitals and complete wards, we receive patients (covid and non-covid) from the NHS, and there are operating theaters that can be used by teams from public hospitals.

The crisis leads to relationships being established, taboos being ended and people being brought to cooperation. As President Joe Biden said a few days ago, “We’re not talking about politics, we’re talking about saving lives.”

After a few weeks in which some tried to scare themselves with ideological arguments, the Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa was now adamant when he said in a private hospital: “I want to leave a word of thanks here because one thing is agitation of the political debate and something other is reality. We have been in contact since March, we have been working together and the NHS and private hospitals and the social sector or the armed forces have been mobilized whenever necessary to respond to this pandemic situation. “

The crisis leads to relationships being established, taboos being ended and people being brought to cooperation. As President Joe Biden said a few days ago, “We’re not talking about politics, we’re talking about saving lives.”

In the same vein, we note the international solidarity movements and the availability of Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Spain to treat Portuguese patients if necessary.

On February 3, Portugal received the support of a team of 26 German health professionals. This is the doubly exemplary case of cooperation. On the one hand, the cooperation between two friendly countries. On the other hand, cooperation between sectors because German professionals come to treat patients from public hospitals, but it was a private hospital that welcomed them at the request of the Ministry of Health. In the words of the private hospital: “For Luz Saúde this is a moment of absolute commitment to the country, the Portuguese and the national health system.”

As the Portuguese Minister of Health just said, “There are many lessons to be learned from this pandemic and the need to work shoulder to shoulder is one of them. Without our shared ability to speak, organize, and build bridges, we would certainly not have responded to many patients and families. “

The Portuguese philosopher José Gil wrote an essay a few days ago in which he called for unity, “because we can only resist together and, despite all the losses and wounds, we can perhaps emerge stronger from this catastrophe”. We learn from this lesson and want to come out of this pandemic stronger in Portugal as in Europe, with more integrated, accessible and sustainable health systems.

The author writes according to the new orthographic convention